You won’t find many that have done their research who argue we don’t eat too much sugar in our day to day lives.
WebMD1 puts it this way:
Americans average about 270 calories of sugar each day, that’s about 17 teaspoons a day, compared to the recommended limits of about 12 teaspoon per day or 200 calories.
The WHO2 goes even further, suggesting:
A new WHO guideline recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
Sugar may be sweet to the tongue, but once it comes in contact with the rest of your body, it has a dangerously bitter aftertaste.
Our Bodies Need Sugar
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate–something our body needs to function properly. In fact, every cell in our body needs sugar to create energy, and even to help our brains function properly. The key is the right kinds of sugar, in the right amounts, at the right time.
Harvard Health3 puts it this way:
Consuming whole foods that contain natural sugar is okay. Plant foods also have high amounts of fiber, essential minerals, and antioxidants, and dairy foods contain protein and calcium.
Since your body digests these foods slowly, the sugar in them offers a steady supply of energy to your cells. … However, problems occur when you consume too much added sugar — that is, sugar that food manufacturers add to products to increase flavor or extend shelf life.
Let’s break that down, a bit.
There are eight types of sugar that are essential to our bodies.
- Glucose, which is found in fruits, vegetables, rice, and potatoes.
- Xylose, found in kelp, berries, aloe vera, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and more.
- Galactose is found in cheese, milk, legumes, chickpeas, and fermented soy.
- Fructose is more commonly known and found in fruits and honey.
- Mannose is found in peaches, pineapples, apples, cranberries, oranges, and blueberries.
- N-Acetylgalactosamine is found in bovine and shark cartilage, and a red algae called dumontiaceae.
- N-Acetylglucosamine is found in shiitake mushrooms and bovine cartilage.
- N-Acetylneuraminic is found in dairy foods, and hen eggs.
Our body doesn’t make these essential sugars, so we have to eat them. These kinds of sugars we do need.
The issue is that these essential sugars can be found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Most of our sugar consumption doesn’t come from these fruits and vegetables, though–it comes from added sugars. These simple sugars break down quickly and provide a brief blood sugar spike. The healthy sugars listed above have been over-processed and altered so much that they’re not what they were originally intended to be. Because of this, our body rejects them.
Sugar Damage–What Effects Does Over-Consumption Lead to?
Lowered energy level
Most people are familiar with the term ‘sugar crash’. A 2019 study4 lends its support to this idea, with a few highlights of that study being:
- Carbohydrates do not have a beneficial effect on any aspect of mood.
- Carbohydrate consumption lowers alertness within 60 min after consumption.
- Carbohydrates increase fatigue within 30 min post-consumption.
Increased Cancer Risk
A 2016 study5 shows that:
The metabolism of glucose, the central macronutrient, allows for energy to be harnessed in the form of ATP through the oxidation of its carbon bonds. This process is essential for sustaining all mammalian life. In mammals, the end product can be lactate or, upon full oxidation of glucose via respiration in the mitochondria, CO2. In tumors and other proliferating or developing cells, the rate of glucose uptake dramatically increases and lactate is produced, even in the presence of oxygen and fully functioning mitochondria.
As PubMed mentions above, the rate with which cancer cells take in sugar is notably more than healthy cells.
In a 2018 study by the NIH6, it was found that:
In two of five studies on added sugars, a 60-95% increased cancer risk was observed with higher intakes. In 8 of 15 studies on sugary foods and beverages, a 23-200% higher cancer risk was observed with higher sugary beverage consumption.
Increased Depression and Low Mood
Nature7 did a study in which they said:
Intake of sweet food, beverages and added sugars has been linked with depressive symptoms in several populations.
In the conclusion of the study, they went so far as to say that:
Depression and clinical depression incidence were approximately 8% and 2%, respectively. About 44% of participants who were CMD [common mental disorder] cases at baseline of each cycle remained recurrent CMD cases, 47% became recurrent depression cases and 58% recurrent clinical depression cases.
Sugar Causes Tooth Decay
The US Department of Health & Human Services8 shows how eating a lot of sugar can impact a child’s dental health. They say:
Bacteria that cause tooth decay break down foods and drinks that contain sugar to form acid. Each time a person consumes foods or drinks containing sugar, acid is in the mouth for 20 to 40 minutes.
The Journal of Pediatrics9 shows in a study that the sugar in carbonated sodas, sweetened tea drinks, and fruit-flavored drinks was associated with moderate-to-severe acne.
Acne Einstein10 also talks about how sugar increases inflammation, aggravates hormonal levels, and in other ways effects acne.
Inflammation and Weight Gain
Not all weight gain comes from simply eating too much. It can also come from eating the wrong foods. Foods you’re allergic to, for example. Or certain kinds of foods you’re eating too much of.
Sugar is a naturally inflammatory food that is also an anti-nutrient. Not only does sugar not do anything for your health, it actively works against you. Cutting your sugar intake can diminish the amount of inflammation you’re dealing with, and help you lose weight that stems from the swelling of that inflammation, and the bloat11 that sugar can cause.
These aren’t the only ways sugar is detrimental to your health and well-being. It impacts every part of your body because your body is like a Swiss watch–every gear impacting the others in some way or another. Other ways that studies have found sugar impacts the body are high blood pressure12, cardiovascular disease13, diabetes14, and aging skin15.
Breaking the Sugar Addiction
The answer to all addictions is simple, but it’s far from easy. Cut them out. Simple sugars are no different. If you’re looking for a way to start, stop drinking soda. A 20-ounce bottle of soda can have as much as 40 grams of sugar in it. That is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons16!
Of course, that’s not the only place the sugar in our daily diets come from. Harvard Health17 points out:
In the American diet, the top sources are soft drinks, fruit drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, cookies, cakes, candy, and most processed foods. But added sugar is also present in items that you may not think of as sweetened, like soups, bread, cured meats, and ketchup.
What Can I do?
When you’re going grocery shopping, make sure to steer clear of processed foods as much as you can. Processed foods are full of sugar, chemicals like food coloring, and additives to make the food taste good.
Reduce your sugar intake by eating good, whole foods and cooking them at home. Even some of the “healthy” foods and snacks you see on the grocery store shelves that boast superfoods are full of sugar. There’s nothing healthy about those, as a result.
There are many names in ingredients lists that sugar hides behind. Our Indulge Without Disaster goes into 6 healthier sugar alternatives.
Sugar can be very addictive, so it won’t be easy to break a habit built over years. It can be done, though, and your body will thank you. Even though sugar has become a staple in our everyday foods, it doesn’t have to be. We can take control of its dangerous grasp once we know how to cut it from our menus.
For help on how to prepare meals, desserts, and treats throughout the year, check out our recipes, and tips for Halloween, holiday celebrations, stockings, and Valentine’s day. For advice on how to help cut the sugar cravings, check out this article.
To learn how to further support your body and get your immune system and allergies tested, contact a Wellness Way, today!
- How Does Too Much Sugar Affect Your Body?: WebMD
- WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children: WHO
- The Sweet Danger of Sugar: Harvard Health
- Sugar Rush or Sugar Crash? A Meta-Analysis of Carbohydrate Effects on Mood: ScienceDirect
- The Warburg Effect: How Does it Benefit Cancer Cells?: NIH
- Consumption of Sugars, Sugary Foods, and Sugary Beverages in Relation to Cancer Risk: A Systemic Review of Longitudinal Studies: PubMed
- Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study: Nature
- Understanding How Sugar Contributes to Tooth Decay: US Department of Health & Human Services
- Daily Intake of Soft Drinks and Moderate-to-Severe Acne Vulgaris in Chinese Adolescents: The Journal of Pediatrics
- Does Sugar Cause Acne – 3 Ways Sweet Tooth Can Ruin Your Skin
- Bloating: Causes and Prevention Tips: Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Sugar-sweetened beverage, sugar intake of individuals, and their blood pressure: intermap study: NIH
- Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults: Jama Internal Medicine
- The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Economic Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data: NIH
- Sugar Sag: Glycation and the Role of Diet in Aging Skin: Skin Therapy Letter
- How Much Sugar in Dr. Pepper 20 oz (expert guide!): UpThirst
- The Sweet Danger of Sugar: Harvard Medical School