A fizzy drink here, a decadent chocolate muffin there. We often reach out for these sweet treats, but it’s not often we stop to consider the amount of sugar we’re consuming on a daily basis. Our bodies do need a level of sugar intake, but this should come from better natural sources such as fruits and vegetables. Natural sugars in a moderate dose are good for you, but refined sugars are the bad boys we need to keep a beady eye on.
Fitness and nutrition expert Phil Snowden of Virgin Active, Singapore, tells us exactly why sugar is bad for your body and what are some of the possible detrimental outcomes it can have on your health too:
“Sugar breaks down in the body (and turns into a) glucose molecule. The pancreas is an organ that releases the hormone insulin, which picks up the glucose molecules and transports them around the body — first to the muscles until they’re full and then to the liver — and then after both are full, they are stored as body fat.”
So the more sugar you constantly consume, the more likely your muscles and liver will become full, which means body fat will start to burgeon. Many more issues will arise as a result, most of which are equally damaging, if not more damaging.
The below are just a few of the more well-known issues that emerge when we put too much sugar into our body:
This is an obvious outcome when the body starts to store too much sugar. Besides, sugar-sweetened beverages contain fructose, a simple sugar that increases your hunger and desire for food more than glucose, leading to a vicious circle of consuming even more sugar. An accumulation of body fats also increases your risk for heart disease.
There is a clear link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes. Prolonged high-sugar consumption drives resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels. This can lead to a surge in blood sugar levels and increase one’s risk of diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes do still make insulin in their bodies, but their cells don’t use it as well as others without type 2 diabetes. This is a lifelong condition that has to be managed.
3. Pancreas dysfunction
Too much sugar over a long period of time plays havoc on the pancreas. It wears the pancreas thin, which means the organ doesn’t function to its full capacity and cannot produce enough insulin, leading to insulin sensitivity. This could then ultimately lead to the individual having to inject insulin — which we more commonly deemed as type 2 diabetes.
4. Sticky blood
Lots of sugar in the body thickens the blood, which in turn affects blood flow around the body. A healthy body needs a constant flow of blood to reach to all our vital parts. Sticky blood increase your blood pressure and high blood pressure leads to many health complications, particularly as you get older.
5. Fatty liver disease
Constant bombardment of glucose — where you’re putting too much sugar into your body — means the liver cannot cope. The liver can only store so much glucose in a healthy manner. Once the liver is overloaded, it leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterised by excessive fat buildup in the liver. As your liver helps your body digest food, store energy, and remove poisons, a malfunctioning or inflamed liver will result in many serious issues.
There is some evidence that consuming large amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, such as esophageal cancer. Having a diet high in sugar increases inflammation in your body and may cause insulin resistance, both of which increase cancer risk.
7. Decreased bone density
Too much sugar takes minerals and calcium away from the bone, decreasing bone density. This means one’s bones are more likely to be prone to breakages. Older women who have undergone menopause are particularly at risk because the decrease in estrogen (a protective hormone for females) leads to weaker bones.
8. Skin disorders and tooth erosion
Acne, rashes, and various skin disorders come from consuming too much sugar, because your body will excrete the excess sugar through the skin. Basically, sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development. Too much sugar also damages your pearly whites, eroding the tooth enamel that can then lead to tooth decay, not to mention expensive dentist bills.
9. Energy fluctuations and / or emotional changes
Elevated and then sudden decreases of blood sugar levels will have a direct impact on your energy and mood. You get an increased ‘high’ after eating sugar, then once the body has used the sugar, you then have a corresponding ‘crash’. These swings can be detrimental to mental health, and lead to an increased risk of depression. People who are keen on getting that energy ‘high’ back also end up ingesting more and more sugar.
The above list, as mentioned, is just a few complications that occur when you regularly consume too much sugar for your body to handle. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you can’t treat yourself every now and again. But the main word to focus on is moderation.
If you think you consume a lot of sugar on a daily basis, why not start making small changes now, to lessen your intake? Whether it is dropping sugar from your coffee and tea, cutting down on your sodas or buying less cakes or cookies during the week, if you start making changes now, your body is sure to thank you for it later.