We all know that sugar isn’t healthy for us but we might not know exactly how bad it is. Medical experts believe that a sugar habit is the No.1 most harmful lifestyle choice we make, along with tobacco and alcohol.
While a sweet treat every now and then is okay, daily consumption has been shown to have significant detrimental effects on health. A study at the University of California San Francisco found that drinking one 500ml soft drink on a daily basis was equivalent to 4.6 years of cell ageing. This is the same as smoking cigarettes, and has been linked to shorter human lifespans.
What’s more, we’re eating more sugar than we might think. Sugar is hidden in almost every supermarket product, from spaghetti sauce and frozen meals to cereal and peanut butter.
If you have a sweet tooth or you live for chocolate, you might want to make some changes after learning what sugar is doing to your body.
Have you noticed how sugar cravings seem to hit in the afternoon and evening? Sugar causes dopamine (a feel-good chemical) to spike in the brain, giving you a rush of pleasure and energy. This is why you reach for a chocolate bar, rather than a carrot, after dinner. But after a high from sugar comes a quick drop (a.k.a. ‘sugar crash’), which can lead to worsened mood and has even been linked to depression.
People with joint pain and bone deficiencies would do well to lay off the sugar. Eating a lot of the sweet stuff has been found to cause inflammation in the body, leading to exacerbated pain in the joints. Further, studies have shown that sugar depletes calcium stores in the body. Calcium is crucial for healthy and strong bones. Too much consumption of sugar may increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
One of the main problems with excess sugar is that the extra insulin in your bloodstream can cause the walls of the arteries to grow faster and get tense. This adds stress to the heart and can damage it overtime. Excess sugar consumption has been linked to heart disease and heart attacks. Eating less sugar can help lower blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.
Your body needs some sugar for energy but any excess sugar ends up being stored as fat. It’s no surprise to anyone that sugar consumption leads to weight gain. Research has consistently shown that people who drink soft drinks and juice weigh more than people who don’t.
Importantly, too much sugar can put you at risk of pre-diabetes, which can result in type 2 diabetes.
Those with diabetes can be at risk of kidney damage if they continue to consume too much sugar. Once your blood sugar hits a certain level, the overworked kidneys are prevented from doing their job properly, which is to filter out waste in the blood. They might also begin to allow excess sugar to enter the urine.
Your dad was right when he told you sugar would rot your teeth. Most food breaks down into sugar in the mouth. The acids from sugar attack the teeth, allowing bacteria to penetrate and cause tooth decay, which is why it’s important to brush twice daily.
Sugar accelerates the skin ageing process. This is due to the way sugar attaches to proteins in the blood and creates harmful molecules called AGEs (advanced glycation end productions). AGEs damage collagen and elastin, which are credited with keeping skin firm and wrinkle-free.
Do you have a sweet tooth? How do you manage your sugar intake?
Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.