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Sweet Sabotage: How Sugar Wreaks Havoc on Your Health

Sugar, although undeniably delicious, can wreak havoc on our bodies in ways we might not fully realise. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to numerous detrimental effects on our overall health, not only our waistlines.

While some people believe that you need some sugar in your diet, this simply isn't true, our bodies need glucose to function yes, but that is no reason to eat more sugar. Our bodies, as miraculous as they are, can create glucose by breaking down other macronutrient components such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Plus we find sugars in many other foods such as fructose in fruits and lactose in dairy products.

So while we now know we don’t need the sweet stuff, if you need some additional reasons why not to eat it, aside from weight gain and sugar slumps, here are some lesser-known ‘side effects of sugar:

1. Sugar can cause skin ageing

Do you want to keep your skin youthful? Then cut down on your sugar intake. Eating sugar causes glycation, a process in which sugar molecules attach themselves to collagen and elastin, the protein that keeps our skin firm and elastic. This process can result in skin damage, wrinkles, and fine lines, making us look older than we are.

2. Sugar affects brain function

Did you know that sugar can affect your brain function? Eating sugar triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls our pleasure and reward system. This process can lead to addiction-like behaviour, meaning you need more and more of the substance to produce the same dopamine effect. Elevated glucose levels can also lead to inflammation of the brain, a study cited in Verywell Mind showed “inflammatory markers in the hippocampus of rats fed a high-sugar diet, but not in those fed a standard diet.” This inflammation can lead to memory loss and cognitive function impairment.

3. Sugar can lead to anxiety and depression

Are you feeling anxious and depressed? Your sugar intake could be the culprit. While there are many ways in which sugar affects the brain and thus our mood one of the more basic ways to explain the effect of sugar and our moods can be the ‘sugar slump’. Eating sugar can cause blood sugar levels to spike, leading to a quick burst of energy. However, this burst of energy is short-lived and can result in a sugar crash, leading to mood swings and anxiety. A study published in Scientific Reports stated that “our study provides evidence that sugar intake from sweet food/beverages increases the chance of incident mood disorders”

4. Sugar can lead to liver damage

Consuming high amounts of sugar can lead to strain on the liver and ultimately to a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This condition is caused by the buildup of fat in the liver, leading to liver damage and several health issues. According to Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health "Your liver metabolises sugar the same way as alcohol, and converts dietary carbohydrates to fat" By eating too much sugar the liver will start to take strain with the higher fat content.

5. Sugar affects our heart health

Sugar affects yet another organ, our heart. While scientists are not conclusive as to how sugar intake increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, they are all in agreement that there is a correlation. In a study by Dr Hu and others published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, they found the following; “People who got 17% to 21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consumed 8% of their calories as added sugar.”

"Basically, the higher the intake of added sugar, the higher the risk for heart disease," says Dr. Hu.

In conclusion, sugar consumption can lead to several health issues, including skin ageing, brain function, addiction, anxiety, depression, inflammation, and liver damage. To avoid these negative effects, it's essential to limit our sugar intake and focus on a healthy diet. By cutting down on sugar, we can lead a healthy and happy life.

Spot the hidden sugars in your food labels! While it may be listed as sugar or cane sugar it can also be listed as sucrose (table sugar), corn sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit-juice concentrates, nectars, raw sugar, malt syrup, maple syrup, fructose sweeteners, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, anhydrous dextrose, or other words ending in “-ose,” the chemical suffix for sugars. If any of these words are among the first few ingredients on a food label, the food is likely high in sugar. The total amount of sugar in a food is listed under “Total Carbohydrate” on the Nutrition Facts label.

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