Vitality

Top Reasons Why Eating Too Much Sugar Is Bad For You

Sugar is everywhere, whether found in naturally-sourced whole foods or (especially) in processed foods that can be bought in the grocery. Though nutritional guidelines change as researchers discover new findings and develop new theories, decades of scientific research prove one thing: Eating too much of this simple carbohydrate is bad for your health. 

Sugar by itself is not a bad guy, according to Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, psychiatry and medicine professor at Duke University School of Medicine. "Sugar is vital to the human body," he told CNET, noting important functions such as being a source of brain energy and a backbone of your DNA. However, he added that problems arise when you consume more sugar than your body needs.

Here are the top reasons why eating too much sugar is bad for you:

Makes Weight Management Difficult

It is more than clear that excess sugar intake is linked to weight gain and obesity.

Studies showed that consumption of certain sugar types (particularly fructose that is in most processed foods and sugary drinks) can increase hunger and influence cravings. Too much sugar was shown in other research to interfere with important hunger and appetite signaling hormones while increasing a harmful type of body fat called visceral fat, which lies deep in your abdomen. 

Though Doraiswamy noted that recent data over the past decade showed a decline in sugar consumption, obesity rates are still on the rise, suggesting that obesity is not always linked to sugar intake.

Nutrient Deficiencies 

If you practice a diet that is full of processed foods with added sugars, it may be hard to consume nutrient-rich food. 

For example, if you eat a lot of candy bars daily, there is a high chance you can become full of sugar-loaded calories, depriving yourself of a balanced diet as a result. There will be little room for nutritious snacks if the majority of your diet consists mainly of added sugars. 

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that no more than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake comes from added sugars. That means on a 2,000-calorie diet, no more than 200 calories daily should be sugar-based. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, 50 grams of added sugar is the recommended maximum since one gram contains four calories.

Messes With Blood Sugar Levels, Increases Diabetes Risk 

Sugar's link to diabetes is just as clear as its link to obesity.

Diabetes, specifically type 2 diabetes, develops when your body does not respond to insulin, which removes blood sugar and transfers it to body cells, but can also happen if your pancreas does not produce enough of the hormone. If left untreated, this results in chronically high blood sugar levels, leading to complications such as nerve damage and cardiovascular diseases. 

Studies showed that drinking sugary beverages increases your risk of type 2 diabetes. It is important to note that aside from sugar consumption, diabetes risk factors also include physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol consumption. 

Researchers believed that sugar influences type 2 diabetes risk directly and indirectly. For example, directly by affecting your body's way of processing sugar, and indirectly by causing weight gain, a major diabetes risk factor.

Damages Your Teeth 

Sugar causes cavities, also known as tooth decay. Cavities happen when bacteria on plaque feed on sugar that remain on your teeth. Sugar fermentation releases acids that eat into your tooth enamel. Dental plaque is sticky, keeping bacteria and acids close to your teeth and causing holes in your enamel to develop. 

Excessive sugar intake -- especially if combined with poor oral hygiene -- can lead to tooth decay and the need for cavity fillings or other dental procedures. While not a solution for all health needs, artificial sugar helps if you are prone to cavities.

Can Increase Depression Risk

You might have known through anecdotes how diet affects your mood -- that some foods give long-term energy and make you feel good, while others cause a crash and lower your mood. 

Those anecdotes are not incidental: evidence implied that your diet can really change your mood and thus influence your risk of mood disorders. In fact, there is an entire sub-branch of mental health research called "nutritional psychiatry" that is dedicated to this concept. 

One study on over 69,000 women concluded that "progressively higher" added sugar consumption was associated with "increasing odds of incident depression." Another study suggested that eating a diet rich in whole, nutritious foods can protect against depression.

Associated With Heart Issues 

According to Doraiswamy, heart disease and stroke are two of the most serious complications linked to too much sugar. High-sugar diets are linked by scientific evidence to cardiovascular disease risk factors, which include obesity, inflammation and high blood pressure. 

Some research stated that there is a "significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for (cardiovascular disease) mortality." A 2016 study found that sugar consumption was linked more closely to heart disease than saturated fat, challenging the traditional thought that a high-fat diet is the number one cause of heart disease.

Accelerates Cognitive Decline 

Doraiswamy said that cognitive decline is another often-overlooked complication of sugar consumption, adding that people with high blood sugar levels tend to have faster rates of what scientists are starting to refer to as the "diabetes of the brain." 

Excessive sugar consumption, particularly through sugar-sweetened drinks, is found by research to increase dementia risk. Research also indicated that changes in the brain can start years before any clinical symptom of cognitive decline appears -- one study showed that dietary changes in early adult life can help protect your brain as you age.

Linked To Skin Issues 

You may have been told as you grow up to stop eating chocolate if you want acne to clear up. Though there is no scientific proof that chocolate alone can cause acne, eating too much sugar from any food source can increase risk of it and other skin issues. A research showed that a high-glycemic diet can be a factor in acne development. 

Population studies suggested that acne is more prevalent in Western societies, such as the United States, where diets that are high-fat, high-sugar and high in processed foods are common. While further studies are needed to confirm sugar's relationship with diet and acne, scientists said the connection between diet and acne "can no longer be overlooked."

Sugar cubes Sugar has health effects on the human brain and body. Pixabay, Public Domain

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