As sugar consumption rises every year, refined sugars have been receiving more press about the various negative health effects. While sugar in moderation and from fruit is not an issue, consuming large amounts of corn syrup, raw sugar, agave nectar, and cane juice will contribute to an entire host of issues down the line. Here are the biggest concerns about eating too much sugar:
- Liver Overload
Sugar is essential for your body, but an overload of it in any form besides fruits causes stress on your liver Sugar is comprised of two different molecules, glucose and fructose, that are metabolized differently. Glucose can be metabolized by any cell in your body and will be produced by our systems if we do not consume it.
Fructose, on the other hand, can only be metabolized by the liver, as this organ is the only part of your body that has a fructose transporter. When highly active individuals eat large amounts of fructose there are generally no issues because their livers will transform the fructose into a stored form of glucose. In less active people, their livers are already full of glycogen so the fructose becomes fat instead.
While some of that fat will be transported out as blood triglycerides, increasing your risk for diseases such as diabetes, the rest will be stored in your liver. This is the main cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to inflation, scarring, and potential failure of the liver in severe cases.
- Insulin Resistance
As your liver becomes less healthy, it will also become insulin resistant. When this happens, glucose is not able to enter your cells and instead stays in your blood, starving your cells of the nutrients they need. The cells signal to the brain to increase insulin production to ensure that your cells are absorbing glucose.
The increase of insulin comes from your pancreas, and it will keep producing more and more insulin until your body’s needs are met. However, with a fatty liver, frequently your body is not able to keep up with the amount of insulin that you need causing a rise in your blood sugar. This is a risk factor for diabetes.
- Heart Disease
Refined fructose breaks down similarly to alcohol, which causes severe metabolic dysfunction as more fat accumulates in your body. As your blood sugar rises and your liver flushes more fat into your bloodstream, your risk of heart disease rises dramatically.
Research that was based on the 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed a clear correlation between increased sugar consumption and heart diseases and mortality from cardiovascular diseases.
- Fat-Promoting Effects
Increased fat in the body comes from the domino effects of the previously listed issues. When your insulin levels are chronically elevated to combat insulin resistance, much of the energy in our bloodstream gets stored as fat deposits. As this process continues, your body has a harder time reaching those stores of energy, and the brain becomes convinced that we need more food even though we have excess fat to feed it.
Those with a high fructose diet also will frequently suffer from leptin resistance, as fructose raises triglyceride levels in the blood, which blocks transport of leptin. Leptin increases when you have more fat in your body, thus it is an efficient balancing system that lets the brain know what we have enough fat stored. When your leptins are blocked then your brain thinks that you are starving and sends out hunger signals.
Finally, fructose does not satisfy the body in the ways that glucose does. Studies showed that glucoses lowered blood flow and levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) when consumed, while fructose did not. Overall, while these two sugars have the same amount of calories, only one of them satisfies your body.
- Tooth Decay
Everyone knows that increased sugar consumption will lead to an increased risk for tooth decay because bacteria feed on the sugar on your teeth to produce acids. These acids dissolve your teeth slowly, creating tooth erosions on the outer surface of tooth enamel. What many do not know, is that each acid attack lasts for twenty minutes, which means, that every time you take a sip of soda you are re-starting bacterial acid damage.
Previously, the recommended course of action for those who ate or drank sugary items was to immediately brush your teeth afterwards. However, it has been found that brushing after consuming acidic foods will increase your chances of erosion as the sugar and bacterial activity softens your enamel. Now it is suggested that you wait one hour before brushing, but to ensure that you brush well.
Sugar activates the pleasure centers of our brains because it is necessary to our health when ingested in glucose form. In the past, this did not cause problems as sweet foods were sparse, however; as we cultivated our environment we gained access to excessive amounts of sugar.
Combined with the various ways that high sugar consumption changes our metabolism and blocks signals to the brain, sugar addiction is a difficult addiction to break. It is really hard to avoid eating extra sugar as it exists in almost all pre-packaged and prepared foods such as breads, cereals, yogurts, etc. It is easy to gorge yourself on sugar without realizing it, allowing the metabolic disruption to continue while increasing the dopamine dump in our brains.
The medical costs associated with conditions that are exasperated by sugar stretch into the billions while our consumption levels continue to rise. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average American consumes between 150-170 pounds of sugar each year, which is over 120 pounds more than the suggested amount.
With over one third of the US population suffering from obesity, 11.3 percent diagnosed with heart disease, and 9.3 percent of people suffering from diabetes with Type 2 on the rise, it is time to start examining our relationship with sugar. The research and data are clear, such extreme amounts of fructose in our diet is slowly killing us.