We all love sugar. What’s not to love? Sweet foods taste good and make us feel good (or so we tell ourselves). So what’s the big deal about eating sugar? Surely something that tastes so good can’t be all bad.
The problem is, we don’t know when we’ve had too much of a good thing. Eaten infrequently and in small quantities, sugar would not be harmful, but there is so much sugar in the foods we eat that we as a society are developing many health problems that can be laid right at the feet of sugar consumption.
Let’s examine some of the reasons that we should avoid sugar:
1. Sugar may lead to the development of cancerI realize that everything today is being blamed for contributing to cancer, but in the case of sugar, there is good reason to believe that consuming sugar may increase your risk of cancer. It’s not sugar per se that causes cancer, but what sugar does at the cellular level that may increase the risk of cancer. Eating foods high in sugar results in alterations in the production of insulin and growth hormones, which may promote the growth of cancerous cells. While some may not buy this theory, they will probably agree that obesity, metabolic syndrome and other health issues associated with eating a diet high in sugar can certainly contribute to the development of cancer.
2. Eating sugar ages the skin prematurelyEating excessive amounts of sugar is thought to prematurely age the skin by damaging collagen and elastin production. Collagen and elastin are the substances that provide firmness and elasticity to our skin. Whether you believe that sugar causes premature skin aging, you can agree that an unhealthy diet affects your skin adversely. Most people know this intuitively, based on their own experience- a poor diet will affect your skin and may make you appear older than you are, so it is not a huge leap to believe that a sugar-filled diet will cause wrinkling and sagging of the skin.
3. Sugar can hinder your immune systemThere is hard science to back up this claim. Studies have shown that white cell activity is reduced for several hours after a sugar binge. Your white cells are the foot soldiers in your body’s war on bacteria. In addition, studies have shown a decrease in phagocytes and neutrophils following ingestion of sugar; these substances are also important in preventing infection.
4. Excess sugar consumption may predispose to the development of diabetesActually, eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes, but obesity is a major risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. Eat too much sugar and you are bound to put on weight, which may increase your risk of developing diabetes, particularly if you have a family history of the disease.
5. Sugar contributes to obesityNo one will argue this point. There has been much attention focused on sugary sodas and their impact on the current obesity epidemic. Soda contains around 180 calories and provides no nutritional value. Many people consume soda like water, and then find themselves struggling with their weight. Eat a diet high in fat and sugar and you will become overweight, and that’s a fact!
6. Sugar can raise your risk of heart attackHigh triglyceride levels, along with cholesterol, can raise your risk of suffering a heart attack, particularly if your triglyceride levels soar after eating. Recent research suggests that eating fructose causes a sudden surge in triglycerides. This is because your liver converts the fructose to fat, which is then released into your bloodstream. This phenomenon is specific to fructose; glucose is not converted into fat as triglycerides are.
7. Sugar rots your teethThis one is a no-brainer. Sugar is known to feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Sugar enables the bacteria to flourish, resulting in plaque that coats the teeth. Plaque results in the formation of acids that can erode tooth enamel, leading to cavities. Saliva washes away much of the debris on our teeth, and brushing will go a long way towards removing plaque from our teeth- but avoiding sugary sweets will help prevent tooth decay.
8. Sugar causes depressionA British psychiatric researcher conducted a study of the relationship between sugar and mental illness. His findings? His primary finding was a strong link between high sugar consumption and the risk of both depression and schizophrenia. Isn’t eating sugary sweet foods supposed to make us feel better? Apparently not- several studies have provided a link between depression and the consumption of sugar. Food for thought…
Eating sugar has also been linked to the development of other disorders such as:
- Ovarian cancer
- Food allergies
- High blood pressure
- Fluid retention
- Migraine headaches
- Gastric cancer
- Hyperactivity in children
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Memory loss
- Kidney disease
In order to avoid disease and keep ourselves healthy, we need to cut down our sugar consumption to a reasonable level. It has been estimated that American adults eat 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, and that teens eat 34 teaspoons! This is obviously more sugar than is healthy for us. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) of sugar per day, while the amount allotted for men is 9 teaspoons, or 150 calories. This recommendation is for “extra” sugar and does not include natural sugars found in the healthy foods we eat, such as fruits, dairy products and vegetables.
We have a love affair with sugar, but sugar is not returning the sentiment.