We all know that sugar is bad for our teeth and our waistline. But, what are the more concealed and serious effects that sugar has on the body?
- A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that drinking a 20-ounce (600ml) sugar-sweetened soft drink a day was associated with the equivalent of 4.6 years of cell ageing; the same as smoking cigarettes. The benefits of giving up sugar start from better cellular health.
- Sugar causes a spike in insulin levels, which can eventually cause insulin resistance. Insulin spikes are not only associated with type 2 diabetes, but also with a negative effect on brain health.
- Sugar consumption releases cytokines, which can cause a low-grade inflammation in the body. Not only can this lead to unhealthy weight gain, but this ‘silent’ inflammation is the source of most disease processes. Some examples are arthritis, migraines, gut issues and autoimmune conditions.
- A high intake of sugar has been associated with an increase in a type of blood lipid called “very-low density lipoprotein” (VLDL). This has a strong link with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Sugar may also decrease high-density lipoprotein (HDL)- the “good” cholesterol that protects against heart problems. Plus, it can contribute to high blood pressure.
- Sugar can become addictive by stimulating the pleasure signals in the brain. This process makes us want it more and more- with detrimental effects on our brain cells. It has been shown that a sugar-rich diet can have a negative impact on memory.
- Sugar has no nutrient benefits, hence can still leave you feeling hungry. It’s also actually an anti-nutrient, as it can deplete the body of B vitamins in order to get metabolised.
- Another harmful effect of sugar is on the metabolism itself. An increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and pre-packaged foods is related to the risk of metabolic syndrome. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) stimulates de novo lipogenesis and finally the development of non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease.
- It is not surprising that a high consumption of sugar can lead to depression. It is said that sugar is more addictive than cocaine and researches in London discovered that a diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables and fish can lower our risk for depression in middle age. According to their study, people who ate processed foods like sweetened desserts, fried foods and processed meats were more likely to be diagnosed with depression than people who largely relied on unprocessed, whole foods. We already know we should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fish for heart and brain health and to help ward off chronic diseases. Now is the time to pile your plate with plants in order to keep depression at bay.
So, this begs the question: how much is not too much? The less the better. Substitute with healthy alternatives, such as fruit, nuts and dried fruit, and within a few weeks of eliminating sugary food items from your diet, the cravings will go away.