We are just beginning to understand the extent of the damage that can be done by a diet too high in sugar. Sure, your mom probably told you that eating candy rots your teeth, and it’s common knowledge that too many sweets will pack on the pounds. But it doesn’t stop there. There are many health risks associated with excessive sugar, and most of us eat too much sugar almost without realizing it. We are about to give you a rundown of the greatest dangers – be prepared for a shock.
How much is too much?
The World Health Organization recommends that you get no more than 5% of your daily calories from sugar, which works out to about 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day. While that sounds pretty doable, you’ll find that many processed and packaged foods contain more than the daily recommendation in just one serving. A single can of Coca Cola, for example, contains 39 grams of sugar! Studies have shown that the average American takes in about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, nearly 4x the recommended amount.
You’ll get cavities
Let’s start with one of the best known results of eating too much sugar. The bacteria that line our teeth love to feed on simple sugars, a process that creates acid as a byproduct. This acid is created really quickly, too, within 20 seconds of consuming the sugar.
The acid then destroys enamel and creates painful holes that must be filled by a dentist to stop them from growing. Sour candies are especially bad for teeth because they already contain acid as well as sugar.
You will gain weight
Sugar and its highly processed cousin, high fructose corn syrup, each contain both glucose and fructose. Glucose is used by every cell in the body to fuel its vital functions. Fructose, on the other hand, is used only by liver cells. So when we eat a lot of sugar, the liver gets overloaded and turns a lot of that excess fructose into fat.
It is released into our bloodstream where it clogs arteries, or is stored around our middles as an unsightly spare tire. If you want to lose weight, cutting out excess sugar is job one, even before you start a new exercise routine.
You may develop insulin resistance
When we eat sugar, the body’s demand for insulin goes up. Constantly high levels of insulin cause the body’s sensitivity to it to decrease.
That means the insulin is less able to process the glucose in your blood stream, so it builds up. Insulin resistance can cause symptoms like constant hunger, fatigue, brain fog, and high blood pressure, as well as extra abdominal fat. Unchecked insulin resistance leads into a full blown diabetes diagnosis.
You are at a heightened risk for diabetes
Diabetes results when insulin resistance is untreated. It a condition in which the insulin produced by a body is not capable of processing glucose, causing the body to go to extreme measures to get rid of the extra.
Diabetes diagnoses have skyrocketed in recent years, with some 25 million people in the U.S. alone affected by it. People who drink a lot of sodas seem especially at risk, likely because they don’t feel full after a sugary beverage, even if it contained more than the daily recom
You strain your liver
Because only the liver can metabolize fructose, consuming too much of it puts an incredible burden on this vital organ. Fructose is a main contributor to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which, like it sounds, causes fat to accumulate in the liver even without the influence of alcohol.
Too much fat in the liver can lead to scarring and eventually liver failure, as the organ works overtime to try and process fructose. Not surprisingly, people with a diagnosis of NAFLD typically have a soda intake of double the general population.
mended amount of the sweet stuff.
You increase your risk of heart disease
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States with major risk factors including smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. However, there are other conditions that increase your risk of heart disease which themselves occur as a result of high sugar consumption.
For example, having diabetes and being overweight both increase stress on your heart. More directly, a recent study from the CDC found that participants who got 17% to 21% of their daily calories from sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from heart disease than people who regularly kept their sugar under 8% of total intake.
You may get gout
Gout is an extremely painful form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body. Too much sugar is a risk factor for gout because uric acid is created as a byproduct when fructose is metabolized.
Gout is especially painful because it causes sharp crystals to form and lodge in the joints. Once considered a disease of the wealthy, the common person now has access to huge amounts of rich and sugary food. Not coincidentally, the rate of gout has doubled in the past few decades.
You could experience cognitive decline
Both obesity and diabetes are also risk factors for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s, so it’s not a huge leap to point the finger at sugar as an underlying problem. The exact relationship between sugar and cognitive decline is not fully understood, but a few studies have begun to uncover a link.
One found that rats with high sugar diets had dulled emotional arousal and memory impairment. Another study in humans pinpointed an association between diets that include a lot of high fructose corn syrup and reduced brain performance in the hippocampus region.
You will probably have nutritional deficiencies
There is only so much food any of us can eat in a day, and if you’re getting too much of that from sugary products, you are most likely missing out on the healthy stuff your body really needs. The Department of Agriculture found in 1999 that people who took in 18% or more of their daily calories in the form of sugar had the lowest levels of essential nutrients including vitamins A and C, folate, calcium, and iron. In addition, things like vitamin D, chromium, and magnesium aren’t properly absorbed in a glucose-heavy environment.
In this article we’ve covered the dangers of eating too much sugar for which there is solid scientific evidence, but researchers suspect that several other conditions may be linked. This includes kidney disease, high blood pressure, and even pancreatic cancer. For all the reasons we are sure about, and all the other potential ills, it is important to reduce your sugar intake if you can. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to prioritize eating healthy staples first, and let them simply crowd out the bad stuff.