Cupcakes and sweet treats are a well-known enemy of a healthy lifestyle, and darn it they are so cute you could almost not believe what evil family they’re a part of.
But here’s the deal – sugar is bad! And here’s why:
What does added sugar mean?
Manufactured foods and drinks such as soda, energy drinks, breakfast cereals, ready to bake foods, almost all packaged foods, also sauces, marinades, and even fruit juice will likely have added sugar.
This means that this is extra sugar that the manufacturer added to the ingredients in order to make the product taste better.
It does not include the sugar that already exists within the actual ingredients themselves. Sugar is added to basically everything because it can make almost anything taste better.
But because the majority of people are (or should be) ‘sugar conscious’, these companies use different names for sugar in order to disguise it on the list of ingredients these can be anything like dextrose, corn syrup, malt syrup, fructose, sucrose, any type of nectar or sugar or words that end in ‘ose’ are usually sugar.
Why exactly is sugar so bad?
Well besides the fact that sugar is a refined carbohydrate, which wreaks havoc on your body’s hormones, sugar is high in calories and has practically zero nutritional value.
It also is near, if not more addictive than drugs producing the same feel-good effect and even the crash and crave afterwards. Interestingly, the liver is affected by sugar the same way it is by alcohol.
Also, sugar can affect your libido because it’s energy that doesn’t last for a long period of time. You could, however, use something that can help enhance your sexual health and libido, which could actually be helpful getting you back on track to leading a healthier lifestyle.
Yet unlike those substances that I just compared sugar to, it is unregulated and freely available to people of all ages. Kids love sugar…
The cycle of sugar in your body
When you eat, your pancreas releases insulin so that all of the sugar (also called glucose) in your bloodstream can be absorbed for energy in your cells.
In essence, insulin acts as a key that opens the cell to absorb blood glucose for energy.
This is a normal bodily function. However, when you consume excess amounts of sugar your body has to constantly produce insulin to compensate for that.
Over time, this leads to insulin resistance, which when your cells essentially become blind to insulin and the excess glucose is stored as fat instead of used as energy.
You may be thinking ‘well that doesn’t sound so bad.’ But in reality, this is just the tip of the gigantic iceberg of ripple effects caused by sugar.
How it affects your body
The real trouble with sugar goes far beyond the fact that sugar causes insulin resistance and weight-gain.
Here are a mere few of the dangerous bodily consequences of excessive sugar intake:
- Pancreas and adrenal glands – These guys are crucial to the proper functioning of your key hormones. Continuously high sugar intake can lead to the deterioration of your pancreatic and adrenal health, which in turn can have catastrophic consequences on your entire body.
- Liver – As we mentioned earlier, the liver suffers similar damage from excessive sugar intake to alcohol. Both of these are believed to contribute to a condition called fatty liver disease (you can get this even if you are skinny), liver toxicity and other types of liver damage.
- Cell health – Nope, not your phone, the cells of your body, as in what you’re made of. Your body has the ability to repair and replace your cells as the age or deteriorate. Because sugar directly impacts your bloodstream, it has also been shown to interfere with your cell health and their ability to fight off free radicals and toxins. This in turn, also lowers your immune system, as it affects both white and red blood cells.
- Brain – The term ‘sugar rush’ comes to mind when you think about your brain and sugar. If only it were a joke and if only that was the most dangerous part of what sugar does to your brain. Sugar actually slows down your brain because it impairs how well the neurotransmitters function (because sugar interferes with cells, remember?)This affects your brain’s ability to concentrate and form new memories. It can also trigger powerful depressive and/or anxiety-related symptoms, which is possibly related to hormone disturbances and the addictive effect sugar can have on your brain.
- Overall health – A diet rich in sugar typically causes a sense of fatigue, sluggishness, and irritability that’s difficult to place. That’s because sugar is attacking every cell in your body. It’s really no surprise then, that it can also dramatically impair your body’s wound healing ability, which is very common in people who suffer from either diabetes diseases. Sugar has also been speculated to have a link to cancer growth, however, there is no solid research on that yet.
A practical experiment
In 2014 actor/director Damon Gameau used himself as a guinea pig in a documentary-experiment (That Sugar Film) whereby he switched from a real-foods centred diet to a low-fat processed foods diet to document the effects of hidden sugars in ‘healthy’ foods that most Americans eat on a day-to-day basis (and believe to be a healthy food option at that).
He followed this diet for a set amount of time with a few rules:
- He’s not allowed to eat foods that classify as junk-foods.
- He’s not allowed to exceed the number of calories he used to consume on his regular diet. (and he often fell way short of that)
- He’s not allowed to exceed the recommended sugar intake of 200g of sugar a day.
- Fatty liver disease.
- An insane increase in body weight.
- Brain fog like crazy.
You really need to see it to believe it.
Luckily the solution is not rocket science although it is based in science and that is this: focus on a diet based on real foods and eliminate processed foods and drinks and sugar in all its forms.
Jason Smith did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.