15 danger of sugar: Sugar Health
Sugar is sweet but what it does to our body – when we over-consume it, is detrimental. We need to know the danger of sugar in order to stay healthy and enjoy the sweetness.
Table of Contents
Danger of sugar: sugar health
Sugar makes everything tasty. However, we tend to forget or ignore the danger of sugar quite often. Is sugar bad for your health?
Sugars are the simplest carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are one of the 3 basic macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) and offer nutrition to the body: vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals. When consumed, carbohydrates provide energy to our body cells.
Sugar is the result of factory processing including bleaching and crystallization. The danger of sugar comes into the picture simply because we over-consume sugar – sugar is very toxic.
Excessive sugar intake may cause inflammation leading to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes. I said “excess” – yes, excessive sugar intake is bad, not the sugar by itself in moderation.
That’s why you must control the amount of sugar intake. Instead of cutting all the sugar, we should avoid the “added sugar“: the additional sugar in foods often providing a large amount of fructose that the body doesn’t need.
“Added sugar” is different than the sugar that occurs naturally in fruit or milk. Natural sugar comes with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help offset some of the negative aspects of the sugar.
Why do the food manufacturers add sugars to the food?
- It enhances the flavor
- It gives a desirable texture
- Refined sugar is a lot cheaper than regular sugar
- It keeps you wanting more (so that they can sell you more products)
- It adds weight to the product so they can charge more and cut down on the amount of fruit per package (fruit costs more than sugar)
- It adds shelf life as a preservative
“Added sugar” is well hidden in plain sight within processed foods – there’re so many different names in sugar making it easy for food manufacturers to hide sugar is in the product. Unless you understand how to read the food labels, it’s hard to recognize them as sugar. I’ll go to the details later.
All in all, you should limit added sugar as much as you could.
Daily Recommended Added Sugar Intake
|Age Group||Sugar Intake (Teaspoons)||Sugar Intake (Calories)|
|Toddlers (Ages 1–3)||3–4 teaspoons||48–64 calories|
|Children (Ages 4–8)||5–8 teaspoons||80–128 calories|
|Girls & Women (Ages 9 and Over)||6 teaspoons||96 calories|
|Boys & Men (Ages 9 and Over)||9 teaspoons||144 calories|
Health issues by excessive sugar intake
If you realized how the danger of sugar affects your health, you could cut back your sugar intake easier.
1. Sugar causes weight gain
Consuming sugar and fructose increases your hunger and desire for food more than glucose does. Fructose also promotes visceral fat (the most harmful type of body fat) accumulation. Excessive sugar intake leads to obesity, which is considered the strongest risk factor for diabetes.
2. Sugar ruins your liver
Whenever there is blood sugar levels rise, the body produces insulin hormones. This signals the liver to absorb the extra glucose and store it in the form of Glycogen. Similarly, when there is a decrease in blood sugar level, the liver releases glycogen back to the body & maintains sugar level.
Excess sugar and fructose intake burdens the liver and increase liver fat to a greater extent than equal amounts of glucose. It leads to insulin resistance, a condition that can result in type 2 diabetes.
Insulin allows for glucose to enter cells for the cells to burn the glucose instead of fat. If too much glucose is in the blood, it can become toxic, resulting in disease.
The hormone insulin helps control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. With insulin resistance, cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond normally to insulin and can’t easily use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, the pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up. This leads to type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance typically has no symptoms. Weight loss and exercise can help reverse insulin resistance.
3. Sugar causes heart disease
Excess sugar intake can lead to obesity, inflammation, periodontal disease (gum disease), and high triglyceride, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels – all risk factors for heart disease.
Inflammation (swelling) is an essential part of the immune system’s response to injury and infection. The body signals the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, as well as defend itself against viruses and bacteria. But it doesn’t just happen in response to injury and illness.
If the inflammatory process goes on for too long or if the inflammatory response occurs in places where it is not needed, it can become problematic.
An inflammatory response can also occur when the immune system goes into action without an injury or infection to fight. When you don’t eat healthily, don’t get enough exercise, or have too much stress, the body responds by triggering inflammation. Since there’s nothing to heal, the immune system cells that normally protect us begin to destroy healthy arteries, organs, and joints.
Chronic inflammation happens when this response lingers, leaving your body in a constant state of alert. It has been linked to certain diseases such as heart disease or stroke, and may also lead to autoimmune disorders: rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. But a healthy diet and lifestyle can help keep inflammation under control.
4. Sugar causes cancer
Excess sugar intake leads to obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance – all raise your risk of cancer.
5. Sugar increases acne
A diet high in refined carbs, including sugary foods and drinks, develop acne. Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels leading to oil production and inflammation to cause acne.
6. Sugar causes mood swings
You might think sugar cravings happen due to stress. However, oftentimes, your actual stress levels are affected by sugar. When you eat sweets, your blood sugar spikes quickly and then plummets, causes the body to discharge a series of stress hormones (adrenaline, epinephrine, and cortisol). Blood sugar swings by sugar intake cause stress and mood swings including depression.
7. Sugar causes aging
Refined sugar causes wrinkles by reducing the elasticity in skins and premature aging.
8. Sugar lowers immunity
Any imbalance in the body over a long period will cause sickness. Studies show that diets high in refined sugar produce excess bacteria and yeast leading to various infections, illnesses, and diseases.
9. Sugar ruins teeth
Refined sugar breaks down the enamel of your teeth, causing tooth and gum decay faster than any other food substance.
10. Sugar makes you tired
Foods high in added sugar quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to increased energy. Products that are loaded with sugar but lacking in protein, fiber, or fat lead to a brief energy boost that’s quickly followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar (“crash”). Having constant blood sugar swings can lead to fluctuations in energy levels. Pairing carbs with fiber and protein or fat is another great way to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable.
11. Sugar affects cognition in children
Studies show that cutting sugar in school meals improved academic ranking. The danger of sugar isn’t just a problem for adults.
12. Sugars affect memory
Diets high in sugar can cause impaired memory and are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
13. Sugars impair bone strength
The phosphoric acid found in sugar decreases the body’s ability to consume calcium correctly. Calcium is needed for bone strength. When not enough calcium is absorbed, it can lead to osteoporosis, brittleness, and tooth decay.
14. Sugars affect kidney function
High sugar in the blood increases uric acid levels. As a result, kidneys may stop working which makes one depend on Dialysis.
15. Sugar is addictive
Sugar is one of the most highly addictive food ingredients, more addictive than cocaine. It is also one of the most harmful ones.
Sugar disguised in foods
You’ve learned the danger of sugar. I also have to show you the ways food manufacturers disguise sugars in foods and drinks. Unless you pay attention a bit more (actually whole a lot more), you’d consume sugars a lot more than you could imagine. It could be detrimental to your health unless you understand the danger of sugar.
1. Hidden names of sugar
It might not say “sugar”, but sugar could be called in various ways. Food manufacturers take advantage of it to hide the danger of sugar: 70% of barcoded food products in the US contain added sweeteners – even though they are labeled as “natural” or “healthy”. So always read the ingredient on the label and limit the sugar intake.
Basic Simple Sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides):
Solid or Granulated Sugars:
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Cane juice crystals
- Cane sugar
- Castor sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Confectioner’s sugar (aka, powdered sugar)
- Corn syrup solids
- Crystalline fructose
- Date sugar
- Demerara sugar
- Diastatic malt
- Ethyl maltol
- Evaporated cane juice
- Florida crystals
- Golden sugar
- Glucose syrup solids
- Grape sugar
- Icing sugar
- Muscovado sugar
- Palm sugar – dry sugar
- Panela sugar
- Rapadura sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sugar (granulated or table)
- Turbinado sugar
- Yellow sugar
Liquid or Syrup Sugars:
- Agave Nectar/Syrup
- Barley malt
- Blackstrap molasses
- Brown rice syrup
- Buttered sugar/buttercream
- buttered syrup
- Carob syrup
- Corn syrup
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Golden syrup
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Oat syrup
- Rice syrup
- Rice bran syrup
- Refiner’s syrup
- Sorghum syrup
2. Lowering the portion size
The food manufacturers regularly make the listed portion size small to manipulate the actual amount of sugar content you’d eat. While the amount of sugar in each of these servings might be low, you would typically end up eating a few times more servings. That’s why it’s important to read the label carefully and check the number of servings per container.
3. “Healthy” foods aren’t so healthy
“Natural”, “healthy”, “low-fat”, “diet”, “light” and “sugar-free” aren’t healthy as you think. While these products may be low in fat and calories, they’re often packed with added sugar. The regulations on the food labels supposedly to protect our health are so loose and favorable to the food manufacturers, the food labels are very misleading and deceiving quite often. You must learn how to read food labels to avoid the danger of sugar.
4. Using many different types of sugar
Ingredients are listed by weight from high to low. Food manufacturers often take advantage of this to hide sugars and to make their products appear healthier by using smaller amounts of 3 or 4 types of sugar in a single product.
5. ‘Healthy’ sugars are still sugar
The danger of sugar doesn’t just come from refined sweeteners. Swapping sugar for unrefined sweeteners (like Agave nectar) doesn’t necessarily mean a good thing.
These sugars could look healthier due to the origin (from the sap, fruit, flowers, or seeds of plants), a slightly lower glycemic index (GI) score than regular sugar, and several nutrients (very small amount).
However, they are still sugar, so you need to watch out for the amount of intake.
FYI: products with “contains no refined sugar” or “refined sugar-free” only means that they don’t contain white sugar.
Common high-sugar sweeteners that are often labeled as “healthy”
- Agave syrup
- Birch syrup
- Cane sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Maple syrup
- Raw sugar
- Sugar beet syrup
6. Combining added sugars with natural sugars on the ingredients list
Food labels don’t distinguish between natural and added sugars. They simply list all of the sugars as a single amount.
Fruits, vegetables, and dairy products contain naturally-occurring sugars. It makes it difficult to know the total amount of sugar in the product from natural sugar and added sugar.
7. Adding sugar to foods you would least expect
Candies aren’t the only products that contain lots of sugar. You need to realize that some foods you don’t think sweet actually contain lots of sugar. Examples include breakfast cereals, spaghetti sauce, and yogurt.
- Breakfast bars
- Condiments: ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles
- Dairy products
- Sauces: BBQ sauce, pasta sauce
- Peanut butter
- Protein bars
- Salad Dressings: added sugar and unhealthy fats
- Vitamin water
The worst sugar to avoid
Sugars are very complex and difficult topics. I’ve spent quite a long time researching and still reading materials. However, I’ve been seeing multiple contradictions. So I picked the majority of opinions and data to complete my list.
Not all sugars are equal. However, excessive intake of ANY type of sugar (whether if it’s natural or not) is bad for you. Purging it from your diet is the single best thing you can do to improve your health.
Most refined sugars are unhealthy, but there is the worst sugar to avoid – even if sugars that are marketed as ‘healthy’ alternatives to table sugar.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
HFCS is an artificial sugar made from corn starch and is one of the unhealthiest options for added sugar. The amount of fructose in HFCS varies, but the most common varieties contain either 42% or 55%. It can be 75 times sweeter than white sugar.
Good fructose & bad fructose
It’s important to note that artificial fructose in added sugar, including HFCS, isn’t equal to the fructose in fruit. It’s difficult to consume excessive amounts of fructose from fruits, which are healthy (packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber) and safe in sensible amounts.
Why do food manufactures use HFCS instead of sugar?
HFCS is much cheaper and sweeter than sugar. That’s the reason why it became so popular starting in the 70s. Americans’ intake of HFCS increased by more than 1,000 % since then. It increases exposure to the danger of sugar tremendously.
Note that it’s not just the overtaking of HFCS that caused the epic of obesity: our daily calorie intake has grown by 24 % since the 70s. However, HFCS is definitely the worst sugar to avoid.
- it contains chemical toxins
Mercury is a by-product of chemical processing. And there are trace amounts of mercury found in HFCS containing beverages. The heavy metal that even in small amounts poses a neurological risk for young children, babies, and growing fetuses.
- it doesn’t offer any nutrients
Sugar is an anti-nutrient: contains no nutrients (empty calories) and can block the absorption of essential nutrients to the body.
- it damages liver
Carbs are broken down into glucose. Glucose is easily transported and utilized by every cell in the body. However, fructose from HFCS or table sugar needs to be converted into glucose, glycogen (stored carbs), or fat by the liver for fuel. When you take too much HFCS, it burdens the liver and adds liver fat causing health issues.
- it increases the risk for heart disease and cancer
HFCS and sugar intake drive inflammation, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Have you heard sugar feeds cancer? Fructose intake may also increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are major factors for heart disease.
- it increases the risk for type 2 diabetes
High intake of fructose can increase liver fat to a greater extent than equal amounts of glucose, which leads to insulin resistance, a condition that can result in type 2 diabetes. This decreases your body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. Over the long term, both insulin and blood sugar levels increase.
- it increases the risk of weight gain
Fructose promotes visceral fat (the most harmful type of body fat) accumulation. Foods nowadays often contain a high amount of HFCS and sugar. Consuming excess HFCS and sugar increases the average daily calorie intake leading to obesity.
- it doesn’t satisfy hunger like glucose
Consuming pure fructose may not satisfy hunger the same way pure glucose does. Both fructose and glucose trigger reactions in the body that eventually lead to feeling full. But glucose does this more efficiently telling the brain to stop eating. Glucose also blunts the effects of ghrelin, a “hunger hormone” that makes us want to eat more. Pure fructose doesn’t activate these same “fullness” cues.
- it robs the body of B vitamins
B vitamins are essential for energy, hormones, digestion, brain health, and cell health.
The most common sources of HFCS
- Soda: Almost all sodas contain HFCS, often in very large quantities.
- Sweetened juices: Some fruit juices market to children
- Processed desserts: candy, prepackaged cookies, muffins, and other desserts
- Packaged fruits: Some applesauce, cranberry sauce, dried fruit snacks, and other fruit-based snacks.
- Crackers: Some crackers, mixed snack packages, and other cracker-like products.
- Condiments and salad dressings: Check the labels of salad dressings, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and other condiments.
- Prepackaged meals: A variety of prepackaged meals like pizza
- Granola and nutrition bars: Granola bars, protein bars, and other purportedly healthful snacks often use sweeteners to improve the taste. HFCS is one of the most popular sweeteners in these products. A “natural” granola bar or fruit drink may contain HFCS but an “organic” one can’t have – at least for now.
- Peanut and other nut butter: Many peanut butters and other nut butter manufacturers add sugar and HFCS.
- Some bread and wheat: some bread and pasta
It’s marketed as a healthy sugar alternative, but it’s a big fat lie! Agave is definitely one of the worst sugar to avoid. Don’t be fooled by the deceiving claim. You got to be smart about the danger of sugar.
Agave nectar is heavily processed and refined like HFCS, even if it comes from a cactus. It contains a whopping amount of refined fructose (90% fructose and 10% glucose), which is very toxic to your body. Processed nectar is more damaging to the liver than HFCS.
Many people have switched to diet soda drinks because they think that they are better. However, 90% of diet soda drinks contain an ingredient called aspartame – the most toxic artificial sugar alternative.
It leads to seizures, death, memory loss, headaches, nausea, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, insomnia, hearing loss, tumors, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, you name it.
Some studies found that using aspartame instead of sugar didn’t reduce calorie intake or body weight.
Aspartame is often found in diet products, such as sugar-free sodas, ice creams, yogurts, and chewing gums, candies. Avoid NutraSweet as well to avoid the worst sugar. Do you still want to drink diet coke knowing the danger of sugar?
Saccharin is an artificial sweetener. The body can’t digest it, so it’s considered a non-nutritive sweetener: no calories, no carbs. It has about 300-400 times as sweet as sucrose.
It has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, though most health authorities consider it to be safe for human consumption. A recent study found that using saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame may disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut.
FYI: It was banned in 1981, saccharin has long been considered carcinogenic because it produced bladder tumors in rats. Saccharin is now unbanned all over the world. It’s unbanned, but do you want to bet the danger of sugar knowing it?
It’s often found in soft drinks, low-calorie candies, gums, and desserts.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is non-caloric, and the body struggles to break it down. Sucralose is about 600 times as sweet as sucrose (table sugar).
Research shows that sucralose might decrease beneficial gut bacteria, increase inflammation, raise blood sugar and insulin levels, and lead to weight gain. Also reported for seizures, dizziness, migraines, allergic reaction, blurred vision.
You might want to avoid cooking or baking with it since it might release harmful compounds by the heat.
Sucralose is found in protein powders, Splenda, other low-sugar/low-carb products, dairy products, chewing gums, canned fruits, and condiments.
Ace-K is one of the few heat-stable artificial sweeteners and controversial sweetener. Although FDA considers it safe, some studies found damages to mental function and memory, increased the risks of weight gain and gut health.
Ace-K is usually found in frozen desserts, baked goods, candies, and low-calorie sweets.
Other sugars to avoid
- Anything labeled Malt
- Beet Sugar (most likely GMO)
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup
- Evaporated Cane Sugar/ Juice
- Powdered Sugar
- Raw sugar
- Rice syrup
- White sugar
Conclusion: Now you know what sugars can do to your health negatively. Eat more whole foods and cut back the sugar intake while you still enjoy the sweetness. You just need to be smart about it instead of cutting sugar all.
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