You might like sweet treats, but your body doesn’t. Most of us eat more sugar than we should, and that’s a problem because sugar damages your health in several dangerous ways. If you’re looking for motivation to improve your diet, check out these ten facts about sugar and your body.
Almost everyone knows sugar isn’t healthy, but many people underestimate how bad it is. A high-sugar diet can wreck your health before you realize what’s going on. Even worse, most people don’t consume it in small amounts, and they eat much more sugar than they should. The American Heart Association recommends women should consume a maximum of six teaspoons of sugar a day, and men should consume a maximum of nine, but in reality, the average American consumes a whopping 20 teaspoons per day. Here are ten sobering health risks that come with all that sugar.
1. Sugar Increases Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
There’s a strong link between sugar consumption and type 2 diabetes. While sugar may not directly cause diabetes, it elevates your blood glucose and can cause weight gain – a major diabetes risk factor. Even people at a healthy weight can develop type 2 diabetes if they have a family history of the disease and eat too many sugary foods. Diabetes is a lifelong condition, so give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding it by cutting down on sugar.
2. Sugar Causes Cravings
Sugar is addictive, not just because it tastes good. It affects the reward pathways of your brain the same way drugs, like nicotine and cocaine, do. In addition to that, when you eat a lot of sugar, your blood sugar increases rapidly and then plummets, making you crave another sweet pick-me-up. Break the cycle by saying no to sugar in the first place.
3. Sugar Could Increase Your Risk for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful, lifelong condition involving inflammation of the joints. Sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods you can eat, and it’s known to make RA worse. Even if you don’t have RA, that doesn’t mean you’re safe to eat the sweet stuff. Over time, the damage caused by sugar might contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
4. Sugar Damages Your Liver
You probably know alcohol is bad for your liver, but you probably didn’t know that sugar affects your liver in almost the same way. Your liver is the only part of your body that can process fructose. If you overload your body with fructose, your liver won’t be able to deal with it, and your body will start storing fructose as fat inside your liver. In other words, you’ll start developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. If left untreated, this condition could progress to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
5. Sugar Damages Your Teeth
Your mom was right – eating too many sweets can give you cavities. While sugar doesn’t damage your teeth directly, it feeds the harmful bacteria inside your mouth. These bacteria produce acids that wear away at the enamel on your teeth. If you eat something sweet, you can minimize the damage by rinsing out your mouth with water afterward and brushing your teeth as soon as possible.
6. Sugar Suppresses Your Immune System
Sugar increases your vulnerability to sickness. When you eat something sugary, your white blood cells become less efficient at fighting germs that try to invade your body. It can take several hours for your immune system to return to fighting strength. To keep your immune system healthy, avoid processed sugar and eat plenty of colorful vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
7. Sugar Increases Your Risk for Obesity
It’s no secret that sugary treats can cause you to pack on pounds. Highly-sweetened foods tend to have a lot of calories, but they don’t fill you up or provide much nutrition. If you’re in the habit of sipping full-sugar sodas or snacking on candy throughout the day, your health and your waistline could be at risk, since obesity increases your odds of developing heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
8. Sugar Ages Your Skin
Even if you take great care of your skin, sugar could still be damaging it from the inside. Your skin contains proteins, called collagen and elastin, which keep it looking healthy and firm. When your blood sugar spikes, it triggers a process, called glycation, which involves the formation of harmful molecules. These molecules, called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), break down the collagen and elastin in your skin, causing premature sagging and wrinkles.
9. Sugar Contributes to Heart Disease
The more sugar you eat, the more likely you are to die from heart disease. That’s the conclusion researchers came to in a 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine (Journal of American Medical Association). The reasons for the correlation aren’t clear, but it might have to do with the fact that sugar can raise blood pressure and trigger the release of bad fats into the bloodstream. More research is undoubtedly on the way, but in the meantime, avoiding sugar seems to be one of the safest ways to protect your heart.
10. Sugar Might Contribute to Cancer
First, let’s dispel one persistent myth – sugar does not feed cancer cells or cause cancer to grow faster. However, there’s a link between sugar intake and cancer. As mentioned, sugar is a major cause of inflammation in the body, and inflammation can cause abnormal cells to develop. Being overweight or obese also increases a person’s cancer risk. Avoiding sugar won’t guarantee you’ll never get cancer, but it will decrease your odds of developing it.
Sugar is terrible for your health in many different ways. It causes inflammation, makes you more likely to gain weight, and increases your risk for scary health problems, like liver disease and heart disease. If you want to improve your health and your diet, cutting out sugar is a right place to start.