6 Shocking Health risks caused by sugar
There are many health risks caused by sugar. There’re different types of sugar such as glucose, fructose, lactose, and sucrose. Sugar is found naturally in plants and whole foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts) and also is added in processed foods to make them taste sweeter, called “added sugar“.
Although, our tongue is unable to tell the difference between added and natural sugar. But our body reacts to them in different ways. You must be aware of the term added sugar which is different from naturally occurring sugar.
According to the experts, regardless of the types of sugar, you must restrict the intake of added sugar. As added sugar lacks all the nutrients and its high intake leads to many health problems such as inflammation, obesity, fatty liver disease, etc.
Here we’ll explain some of the problems caused by added sugar and its solutions.
Following are the health risks caused by sugar
Heart failure is the leading cause of death worldwide. High-sugar diets can cause many other ailments including heart disease.
Excessive intake of sugar can directly or indirectly affect the heart, but its direct effect isn’t yet fully understood. But indirectly, sugar can raise the risk of heart diseases.
For example, high consumption of sugar puts strain on the liver. The liver metabolizes sugar which results in the conversion of dietary carbohydrates into fat.
The amount of fat starts to increase gradually. This can lead to fatty liver disease which can further lead to diabetes. Which ultimately increases the risk of heart disease.
Similarly, diets high in sugar, especially sugar-sweetened beverages have been associated with the risk of multiple diseases like obesity, atherosclerosis, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), blood pressure, inflammation, etc. All of these diseases cause damage to the heart in one way or the other.
A study found that people who consume about 20% of their calories from added sugar have a higher risk of dying of heart attacks than those who consume only 10% of calories.
If we talk about natural sugar which is found in milk as lactose, cheese, and in fruits as fructose and glucose (naturally occurring carbohydrates), it is good for health as it is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
While added sugar lacks nutrients except for calories. This sugar is added to the foods and beverages during processing. These types of food are unhealthy and should be limited.
As compared to glucose, fructose is sweeter and more damaging to health. It’s often used in processed foods as an added sugar.
High intake of fructose causes resistance to the leptin hormone, which is helpful in burning fats as well as controlling appetite. This increases your hunger and by consuming more sugary drinks like soda and sweet tea, you consume more liquid calories which leads to weight gain.
Type 2 diabetes
There’re two types of diabetes. However, type 1 has no connections with obesity or high sugar levels. But these factors can be a major cause of type 2 diabetes.
In addition to the environmental factors (polluted air, foods high in fat, sugar, and calories, vitamin D deficiencies), genetic factors and aging can also be a cause of diabetes.
But in most people, the disease is caused by obesity and high sugar intake. Consuming too much sugar increases the number of calories in our body which contributes to becoming overweight.
High levels of glucose in our blood cause diabetes. Glucose is the main source of energy which comes from the food we consume.
Insulin is a hormone, released by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels and helps our cells use glucose for energy. Insulin helps individual cells receive glucose from the blood, then the process of metabolism begins.
Prolonged misuse of sugar or sugar-sweetened drinks develops resistance to insulin. When our body doesn’t make enough insulin, glucose stays in our bloodstream and can’t reach the cells. This can lead to high blood glucose levels which results in diabetes.
Decrease in energy
Many products on the market contain a high amount of added sugar. Also, many people consider eating energy-rich food for breakfast such as sugar-filled cereals, juices, flavored yogurts to be a healthy breakfast routine but unfortunately, these foods fail to meet their expectations.
This is because all of these foods are high in sugar but lack the nutrients like fiber, protein, and fat as well. Added sugar present in breakfast cereals makes up 50% of the total carbs found in them.
Such types of food can spike blood sugar and insulin levels and cause a sudden rise in energy. But this rise is temporary and after a short period of extra energy, blood sugar drops quickly which is commonly called energy crash.
These fluctuations in energy levels can affect your health. To deal with this problem, it’s necessary to choose carb sources that are low in sugar but high in nutrients such as fiber, protein, and fats.
To maintain energy levels, it’s best to consume foods that have the right combination of carbs with protein and healthy fats.
High glycemic index (GI) foods such as cookies, breakfast cereals, cakes, sweet treats, and all the heavily processed foods like added sugar contain refined carbohydrates which are quickly assimilated into the bloodstream that cause a rapid increase in blood sugar and insulin levels.
This rise may increase insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) androgen that causes skin cells to grow faster and promote sebum as well as oil production, all of which may lead to the development of acne. Drinking sodas and sweetened beverages on a daily basis can also cause average or acute acne.
Does sugar cause cancer?
Can excessive intake of sugar cause cancer? Studies on the connection between excess sugar consumption and cancer are ongoing.
However, no research has yet shown that a higher intake of sugar-sweetened products can lead to cancer or that there is a direct link between them. But still, the risk exists that too much sugar can cause cancer, albeit indirectly.
Diet enriched with sugary foods leads to weight gain. Gaining too much weight puts our body at a risk for insulin resistance. Insulin is helpful in carrying sugar we consume, to our cells to use it as energy.
As we have mentioned that high levels of sugar in the body may make our cells resistant to insulin, which may result in a rapid increase in insulin levels.
Gradually, too high blood sugar and increased insulin levels begin to cause health issues like fatty liver disease, vascular disease and may lead to an increase in the number of cancer cells causing pleural cancer (mesothelioma) or cancer of the small intestine (adenocarcinomas).
How to avoid health risks caused by sugar:
- To deal with all the problems caused by high consumption of sugar, it’s necessary to avoid processed foods as much as you can. Because they contain a lot of added sugar such as candies, sugary desserts, juices, soft drinks, toppings, tea, corn syrup and the baked items as well.
- Rather, it’s best to use the naturally-occurred sugar found in vegetables and fruits as there are numerous micronutrients found in them. Prefer whole foods based on beans, grains, legumes, wheat, wholegrain rice, seed, nuts etc.
- Choose foods that are low in sugar or having no sugar at all. Make your own home-cooked meal containing all the healthy ingredients.
- The good amount of added sugar which should be taken per day is: Men: 150 calories (38 g), Women: 100 calories (25 g)
- It is important to go through food labels to assess your intake of added sugar. But sometimes, manufacturers use misleading tricks to make people convince to purchase heavily processed products. To deal with this problem, it’s good not to rely on front labels as they are often deceiving.
- Choose items that contain whole foods as first three ingredients on the list because most of the diet consists of these three ingredients.
- Never trust on the misleading claims as they often used to mislead consumers about food.
- To avoid using too much sugar, must keep in mind the following sugar names that are most common in the ingredients list:
Brown sugar, cane sugar, coconut sugar, molasses, dextran, fructose, dextrose, glucose, maltose, corn syrup, invert sugar, maple syrup.
If you find any of these names appearing even on the top list, either avoid them altogether or minimize the number of such foods.
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