We must be clear, sugar is present in many of the foods we consume every day. Although it has been a staple in our diet for many years, today we see it as one of the worse ingredients possible. The cause of this change of perspective is the harmful effect that sugar has on our organism and the contribution to the appearance of different serious diseases.
There are a variety of types of sugars, the major ones are monosaccharides such as glucose, fructose and galactose. The other major type are disaccharides like sucrose, lactose and maltose, among others. The one we consume the most is sucrose, which is a carbohydrate that is found naturally in various plants, mainly in sugar cane. It is a molecule composed of two monosaccharides, 50% of fructose and 50% of glucose.
Some of the main problems caused by sugar are:
- Added sugar affects the teeth and doesn’t provide essential nutrients.
This is one of the aspects that we hear about the most and it is worth remembering. Added sweeteners such as sucralose or high fructose corn syrup contain a high percentage of empty calories, so they do not provide any essential nutrients. We must recall that our body requires proteins, vitamins and minerals, but sugar only contains energy.
When we consume between 10-20% of calories in the form of sugar we can develop serious health problems and nutrient deficiency. In addition, the teeth are affected since sugar contains digestible energy particles that encourage the appearance and growth of bacteria in the mouth.
- Sugars high in fructose can damage the liver
To understand the damage that sugar causes, we must first understand its composition. When sugar enters the digestive system, it is broken down into glucose and fructose. Glucose is vital for the cells of the organisms and even if we don’t add it to our diet, our body can produce it naturally in the required amounts via gluconeogenesis. However, fructose cannot be produced naturally and is not necessary for our body. Because of this, we suffer a difficulty metabolizing it when it is ingested in large quantities. When we eat a small portion of fructose such as piece of fruit, it does not affect us too much. The liver accumulates fructose and converts it into glucose. Glucose is then stored as glycogen in the liver, to be used when we need it. The problem begins when the liver has too much glycogen accumulated, so if the ingestion of fructose continues, it turns into fat, generating various health problems. It is important to remember that the fructose that we find in the fruits does not cause damage, since its quantity is minimal and its origin is natural. We must also take into account that people who live a healthy and active life can tolerate sugar better than those who don’t. Overloading the liver with fructose can also cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This has become a very serious problem and it’s associated with metabolic diseases.
- Sugar can cause insulin resistance which develops metabolic syndrome and diabetes
Insulin is a vital hormone for the functioning of our body since it allows glucose to enter cell where it’s metabolized. The excess of glucose generates a toxic reaction that manifests itself as diabetes complications such as blindness and amputations.
A characteristic of metabolic dysfunction is that insulin stops functioning properly when the cells become resistant to it. This is known as insulin resistance and can result in obesity, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, among others. Several studies have shown that sugar consumption promotes and facilitates insulin resistance, especially when its consumption is excessive.
- Insulin resistance can develop into diabetes type II
When our cells become resistant to insulin, the beta cells of our pancreas work more. This is crucial because high blood glucose levels can originate serious and irreversible damages. With the passing of time, insulin resistance becomes stronger and the pancreas can no longer produce the amount of insulin needed to keep blood sugar levels under control. This is the point when the diagnosis of diabetes type II is inevitable.
- It can generate cancer
Cancer has become one of the diseases that has caused more deaths in the world and is characterized by the uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells. Insulin is one of the main hormones in the regulation of this growth. Many scientists believe that high and constant insulin levels caused by the consumption of sugar contributes to the onset of cancer. This is also aggravated by the fact that sugar facilitates inflammation, another determining factor for the development of cancer. Of course, the consumption of products with sugar will not define whether we will suffer from cancer or not, but it is a factor that we should not overlook.
- Due to its effects on hormones and the brain, it has a unique effect that promotes obesity
Although we have been taught that the consumption of high calorie foods is negative, the truth is that not all of them cause damage. Each food has particular effects on the brain and hormones. Several studies have shown that the effects of fructose and glucose are very different. Foods that contain fructose generate lethargy and does not produce satiety in the cerebral areas that dictate hunger, causing a greater need to eat foods rich in sugar. The main problem is that it turns into a vicious cycle from which it is difficult to get out of. The more sugar is consumed, the more lethargic our body becomes and the more we feel the need to consume it.
- It is highly addictive due to the release of dopamine that its ingestion produces
Artificially sweetened foods have ingredients that our body cannot control and sugar can be extremely addictive for many people. Like drugs, influences the release of dopamine from within our brain. Many people believe that this addiction is less dangerous or less serious than other addictions and don’t pay much attention to its effects. This attitude can be extremely unsafe, which is why it is recommended to abstain from consuming artificially sweetened products. Although it can be difficult to adopt a healthier diet, it’s the only way to avoid falling into addiction.
Those who live with sugar addiction should seek medical and nutritional attention to modify these habits. In some cases, psychological care is also necessary to have a complete treatment.
- It is the main factor in obesity in children and adults
The way it affects hormones and the brain is the ideal scene for obesity since it decreases satiety and causes addicts to lose control over their diet. It is not surprising that people who consume more sugar are also more likely to be overweight or obese, no matter the age.
According to research, children are the most affected by the consumption of sugar. It has been found that the amount of sweetener products consumed by children are extremely high. Furthermore, there is also the fact that their body is less prepared to deal with the issues that sugar excess can cause. Statistics indicate that the consumption of sweets increases the risk of obesity in children by 60%.
- Excessive sugar causes higher levels of cholesterol and heart problems
For decades we have lived believing that saturated fats are the main cause of heart problems. However, new studies have shown that sugar is the one that causes veins to clog, thereby decreasing blood flow. This is one of the most dangerous effects of fructose on the metabolism.
Fructose can decrease good cholesterol (HDL), increase triglycerides, raises blood glucose and insulin levels in just 10 weeks. All these problems end up increasing the chances of suffering a heart attack or heart disease.
Most of the times we do not even realize that we are consuming sugar. Unfortunately, we can find it in all types of products such as: commercial salad dressings, juices, cheeses, yogurt, cereals, breads, etc. To avoid the consumption of unwanted sugar, it is important to read the labels and avoid or limit the consumption of those products.