Need Another Reason to Cut Back on Sugar? Here are 6 of Them.
Man, I love donuts. I could eat donuts every day of the week. But I don’t, for one simple reason— donuts (in all their sugary glory) don’t do much for my health.
Now, sugar on it’s own isn’t bad— in fact, your body needs glucose (which comes from sugar) in order to function, properly. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy are full of natural sugars that can help your body thrive. But where the trouble begins is when you start talking about added sugar. And added sugar doesn’t just come in the form of cookies, cakes, and pies. Sugar is processed into foods you might never expect to enhance the color, flavor, and texture.
Now, you’re probably aware of one big issue with eating too much sugar. Added sugar adds empty calories to the foods you eat, resulting in an obvious (and visible) effect on your health: weight gain. But what you may not know is that the long-term effects of eating too much sugar can cause much broader— and more serious— health problems than just an increase on the scale. Here are 6 reasons to curb that sweet tooth have nothing to do with the size of your jeans.
Sugar can lead to high blood pressure.
It’s probably no secret to you that sugar can play a huge role in excessive weight gain. In fact, over the past 30 years, Americans have been consuming more and more sugar— leading to an obesity epidemic and (no surprise here) significant increases in high blood pressure across the general population. But weight gain isn’t the only culprit. Research shows that sugar can affect blood pressure all by itself, even without significant weight gain.
So why is high blood pressure such a big deal? Increased blood pressure forces your heart and arteries to work harder while pumping blood throughout your body. Over time, this increased workload can cause damage to the circulatory system, leading to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and other life-threatening coronary conditions.
And if that’s not enough for you, here’s another scary fact: people whose diets are made up of at least 25% percent added sugar are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those whose diets make up 10 percent or less.
Sugar can be addictive. Like, seriously addictive.
It might be easy to crack jokes about your codependent relationship with ice cream, but it’s no laughing matter. Like other drugs, binging on excessive sugar can lead to genuine, physical symptoms of addiction and withdrawal. How does this happen? The hyper-sweet nature of sugar can hijack dopamine production, the neurotransmitter at the center of your brain’s pleasure center. Because your body wants more of the sensation from this feel-good chemical, you begin to crave sugar (and the dopamine release that comes with it). In fact, studies have even shown that even the sight of a milkshake activates the same neurological response as cocaine for people suffering from addictive eating behaviors.
So yeah, you’re not just imagining the feeling you get from that second (or third) slice of birthday cake. That’s why it’s best to take it easy on the sweet stuff.
Sugar can wreak havoc on your skin.
Sugar isn’t just hard on your waistline, it can cause serious problems for your skin as well. Long periods of eating too much sugar cause a process called glycation, where the sugar binds to proteins in the bloodstream to form advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs).
These AGEs damage the collagen, elastin, and cellular turnover in your skin, leading to wrinkles, sagging, and dull skin.
And that isn’t all you’re in for— high glycemic, sugary foods have also been shown to trigger hormonal fluctuations that can increase the severity of acne and inflammation in the skin.
Sugar may heighten your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.
Prolonged sugar consumption also contributes to cognitive decline. High-sugar diets have been shown to reduce the body’s production of a chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a chemical that plays an important role in the formation of new memories, as well as recalling memories from the past. BDNF deficiencies have been linked to the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. People with impaired glucose metabolism— such as diabetics and pre-diabetics— are particularly likely to have low levels of BDNF.
Sugar may also accelerate symptoms of depression and other mental health issues.
You’ve probably heard me say that sugary sodas are full of empty calories, but did you know they can also have a negative impact on your mental health? In fact, one study found that individuals who consumed more than a half-litre of soda a day were 60% more likely to suffer from depression, stress-related problems, psychological distress, and suicidal ideation.
Sugar’s plays a variety of roles in mental health disorders. Sugar has been increasingly linked to cellular inflammation, a likely factor in the onset of depression. Over-consumption has been shown to trigger imbalances in brain chemicals that can increase feelings of anxiety. And the close link between addiction and mood disorders makes it likely that the dopamine disruption caused by sugar addiction may also contribute to mental health problems.
Sugar increases your risk of developing certain diseases.
So we’ve talked about the negative effects too much sugar can cause on your heart, skin, and brain— but it doesn’t end there. Excess sugar is a driver for other diseases, as well.
Research has shown that people who regularly drink 1-2 sugary drinks per day are 26% more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes than people who do not consume high-sugar beverages on a regular basis.
A 22-year study showed that men and women who consumed one sugary beverage per day were 75% more likely to develop Gout than those who did not.
Fructose, in particular, has been shown to significantly increase the likelihood of developing non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), a condition that affects about 31% of American adults and 13% of American children.
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