Sugar consumption is the single most important factor in obesity. Yet it is not just added sugar, but rather the combination of added sugar with refined grains that makes us fat.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), contrary to popular opinion, Americans are not getting more obese because they are eating too much; they are getting more obese because they are eating too much of the wrong things.
The study, published in the journal Obesity, found that when people increased their consumption of added sugars, they ate fewer healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The result was that they consumed too many calories and got fatter.
The UCSF researchers also found that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day, or roughly 350 empty calories. This is in addition to the sugar found naturally in foods.
When we consume sugar, our bodies release insulin to process it. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use or store sugar but also tells the body to store fat.
The same scientists at UCSF who conducted the study on added sugar consumption went on to conduct a study on how high fructose corn syrup, which is nearly half glucose and half fructose, can affect the body. According to the study, high fructose corn syrup can be even more damaging to the body than other sugars.
In particular, the researchers found that when the body was exposed to high fructose corn syrup, it produced significantly higher amounts of triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood, than when the body was exposed to table sugar. High levels of triglycerides have been linked to heart disease, while low levels have been linked to a lower risk.
What is Added Sugar?
Added sugar is any sugar that is added to foods to enhance flavor. It is not the same as naturally occurring sugars. Added sugars are added to foods during preparation or at the table.
Added sugar is found in almost anything you buy from the market. These foods and beverages include soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy and sports drinks, flavored waters, coffee drinks, ice cream, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, bread, pastries, breakfast cereal, grain-based desserts, sweetened fruit, or vegetable dishes, and condiments.
These sugars are different from naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, vegetables, milk, and 100% fruit and nonfat milk. While naturally occurring contains both fructose and glucose, added sugar is mostly fructose which is not needed for your nutrition.
Also, because you already get your needed sugar from fruits, flour, and vegetables, any extra sugar you consume is already too much for your body.
Health Risks of Added Sugar
Added sugar is associated with weight gain and the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The sweat poison is linked to a host of health problems including depression and cancer. The damage sugar cause in your body is similar to cancer in the sense that it is gradual and painless. While there are indications that warn you about high sugar consumption, the symptoms may not always reveal themselves.
Here are 12 risks added sugar poses to your health and well-being:
1. Sugar Can Lead to Excessive Weight Gain
You probably already know that consuming too much sugar can lead to excessive weight gain. But did you know there is a connection between sugar consumption at a young age and excessive weight gain later in life?
A number of studies have found that children who regularly consume sugar-sweetened beverages are at a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese later in life.
2. Risk of Developing Cardiovascular Diseases
Consuming large amounts of added sugar is associated with many health issues, including obesity and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
A recent study in The Lancet found that consuming 100 grams of sugar (about 12 teaspoons) per day is linked with a 20% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This may be because of the adverse effects of sugar on blood pressure and lipid levels.
Consuming a lot of added sugar has also been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and is thought to be a major contributing factor in the development of fatty liver disease.
3. Sugar Can Increase Your Risk of Developing Diabetes
Research has shown that sugar is a likely culprit in the rise of Type 2 diabetes. A
One study found that for every 150 calories of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed, the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increased by about 22%.
Another study found that for every 1,000 calories of sugar-sweetened foods eaten per day, the risk of developing diabetes increased by around 21%.
4. Excess Sugar Consumption Can Cause Tooth Decay
Excessive sugar consumption is known to cause cavities. Sugar can dissolve in water, making the mouth more susceptible to tooth decay.
Additionally, the bacteria in the mouth can metabolize sugar, producing lactic acid. This leads to tooth decay, cavities, and bad breath.
Studies have found that people who consume more than 200 grams of sugar per day (the amount in 20 ounces of soda) are four times more likely to develop periodontal disease than people who consume less than 50 grams of sugar per day.
One study found that people who drink sugary beverages like soda and juice are about twice as likely to develop cavities as people who don’t.
5. Sugar Can Weaken Your Immune System
Sugar consumption may also impair the immune system, making you more susceptible to colds, flu, and other illnesses. The immune system is compromised because sugar consumption causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation is an important part of the body’s immune response, but too much inflammation can be harmful.
6. Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease
A study conducted in Sweden showed that people who consume lots of sugar in their diet may be at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The study found that for every additional 150 calories of sugar that people consumed per day, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increased by about 20%.
7. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
In the liver, fructose is metabolized into fat, which can accumulate in the liver and eventually cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). There are two types of NAFLD: simple steatosis, which is just a buildup of fat in the liver with no damage, and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), in which liver cells are damaged and can lead to scarring and liver failure.
Fructose appears to be the main culprit in the development of NAFLD. People who consume fructose in beverages (including soda and fruit juice) are at a higher risk of developing NAFLD than people who consume it in solid food. Even though fruit juice contains more fructose than soda, research has found that soda is linked to NAFLD more than fruit juice.
8. Added Sugar Causes Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), consuming added sugar increases the blood levels of triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol, two risk factors for heart disease. One clinical trial found that replacing fructose with glucose in the diet significantly lowered triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol levels.
Another study found that men who consume an average of 100 grams of fructose per day (the amount in 10 ounces of soda) have a 23% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than men who consume about 50 grams of fructose per day.
9. Added Sugar Can Cause Cancer
According to the AHA, sugar may increase insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), two factors that are associated with cancer cell growth.
Sugar may also increase your risk of cancer by promoting inflammation, which is associated with cancer. The AHA states that “most Americans consume excess added sugar, which contributes to their risk of developing chronic diseases, including cancer,” and that “people who consume the most added sugar have the highest risk of developing cancer”.
10. Added Sugar Can Cause Depression
Too much added sugar in the diet has been linked to an increased risk of depression.
One study found that people who consumed an average of 75 grams of sugar per day (the amount in 7 ounces of soda) had about double the risk of depression as people who consumed only 25 grams of sugar per day.
11. Added Sugar Can Cause Dementia
A high intake of sugar has been linked to poor cognitive function, including impaired memory, lower processing speed, and a general decline in brain function.
Another study found that people with poor glucose control are at an increased risk of developing dementia. This study included people with type 2 diabetes, who are more likely to develop dementia than people without diabetes.
12. Added Sugar Can Cause Kidney Disease
Research has found that consuming an average of 150 grams of sugar per day (the amount in 12 ounces of soda) is associated with an 88% higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake?
If you want to reduce your added sugar intake, the first step is to stop drinking sugary beverages, such as soda and juice drinks also called sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).
SSBs include sodas, fruit drinks, and iced teas, and energy and sports drinks, which provide calories but few essential nutrients. SSB consumption is associated with weight gain and risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
SSBs are the single largest source of calories in the American diet. A single can of regular soda can contain as many as 140 calories and as much as 35 grams of sugar. Among children and adolescents, SSB consumption is linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that those who consume sweetened beverages choose beverages with little or no added sugars.
A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine notes a strong and consistent relationship between increased intake of added sugars and increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
The Dietary Guidelines also recommend that people limit added sugars to less than 10 percent of calories per day. A healthy eating pattern limits added sugars to less than 5 percent of calories per day.
These guidelines are based on the latest scientific evidence. For more information on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, please visit us here.
In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it is making healthier choices easier for consumers by requiring that the Nutrition Facts label on most packaged foods and beverages show the amount of added sugars.
If you choose to drink a beverage with calories, it’s a good idea to choose a 100% fruit juice instead of a sweetened beverage or a soda. While fruit juice is higher in fructose than soda, it’s lower in added sugars, since it doesn’t contain any added sugars. In addition, 100% fruit juice doesn’t have any added calories from sugar.
However, it’s important to note that 100% fruit juice is still high in fructose, and is not a healthy choice if you’re trying to lose weight.
If you’re looking for a healthy way to quench your thirst, you can make a homemade fruit smoothie, which is a healthy alternative to sugary drinks.
In addition to cutting out sugary drinks, here are a few other ways that you can reduce your added sugar intake:
Make a commitment to avoid added sugars as much as possible. Keep a log of the foods that you eat and the amount of sugar they contain. Make a list of your favorite foods and beverages and rank them based on the amount of sugar they contain. Use the list as a guide to help you choose foods and beverages that contain less added sugar.
You can reduce sugar intake by abiding by the following simple rules:
1. Keep a Food Journal
A small study in the journal Appetite found that participants who kept a daily food journal lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t.
2. Stop Drinking Alcohol
Sugar is often added to wine, beers, and other alcoholic beverages, so cutting out alcohol means cutting out sugar, too.
3. Eat Fewer Processed Foods
If a food label lists “sugar,” “corn syrup,” or “high fructose corn syrup” in the top two ingredients, put it back.
4. Cut Back on “hidden” Sugars
Be on the lookout for sugar in unexpected places. For example, a seemingly innocent bowl of cereal can contain a whole day’s worth of sugar.
5. Eat at Home More Often
The average restaurant meal has nearly a day’s worth of sugar in it, according to a University of Washington study.
6. Ditch The Sugar-laden Breakfast
In the same study, researchers found that cereal, bagels, and toast were the biggest culprits—some packs contained more than a full day’s worth of sugar.
7. Read Food Labels
Sugar is no longer considered a “sugar-free” alternative, so be sure to check the list of ingredients.
8. Choose Whole Foods
Produce, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy are all good, healthy sources of sugar.
9. Eat More Fiber
A study in the journal Appetite found that people who ate a high-fiber breakfast had a slower and lower rise in blood sugar than those who ate a sugary breakfast like sugary cereal.
10. Drink More Water
Drinking more H2O can help you feel more full and make you less likely to reach for a sweet treat.
11. Go for Baked
Baked potato, baked yam, baked sweet potato—these are all better for you than French fries.
12. Eat More Spices
Cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and other spices can help balance blood sugar.
13. Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and veggies are full of fiber and will help to keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
14. Go slowly
To really break a sugar habit, you have to slowly wean yourself off it. If you cut it out cold turkey, you’re just going to crave it more.
In addition to all the health problems sugar brings into your body, it also makes you addicted. If you think you are already addicted to sugar, these 6 simple ways can help you get rid of the addiction.
So, what do you plan to do about your sugar intake? Are you ready to reduce or completely avoid consuming added sugar from now on, considering the grave health problems it carries?