Sugar is perhaps one of the most controversial topics in the food industry – and for good reason. The fact that sugar is everywhere, and makes up close to 80% of processed foods increases the likelihood of addiction. What most people may not be aware of is that this type of sugar, known as added sugar, is extremely unhealthy and wreaks havoc on the body. It has often been described as the worst ingredient in modern days.
Sugar’s harmful effects transcend empty calories, and predispose users to chronic diseases including those that affect the heart. The other reason why this is important is because the negative effects of sugar sometimes take years to surface, at which point the resulting conditions are pretty much irreversible. Players in the food industry are well aware of the power of added sugar, so it comes as no surprise that even processed foods you’d never imagine (think soups, sauces and salad dressings) are also rich in sugar. Below are the top 10 reasons why you need to stop eating sugar right now.
1. Sugar is Highly Addictive:
Sugar is one of the most addictive substances on the face of the earth. But just how bad is this? A study carried out by researchers involved exposing rats to sugar over a period of time and doing the same for cocaine – a hard drug and no doubt one that causes addiction.
The results were astounding! Turns out that with all factors held constant, rats actually preferred sugar to cocaine! Does this come as a surprise for you? If it does, there’s a good reason for that. It is because sugar is lurking everywhere. The reason why you might not feel inclined to be a sugar addict is that it is well masked in most of the foods you take.
Tip: The next time you go shopping, take a look at the food labels and you will be astonished at just how much of the foods you purchase contain sugar. Note that while the label may not necessarily indicate ‘sugar’, if the ingredient ends with ‘-ose’ it still is added sugar.
To put this in perspective, a typical ‘healthy’ meal for breakfast that includes low-fat yoghurt, a bowl of cereals and a glass of fruit juice may contain as much as 15 teaspoons of sugar whereas the recommended daily intake is pegged at 7 teaspoons only. This also explains why your favorite products – hello low-fat yoghurt- has a very delicious taste as it is laden with lots of sugar!
2. Sugar Leaves you Feeling Unsatisfied:
Do you often wonder why, even after eating lots of your best cookies, you still end up feeling unsatisfied? Well, wonder no more because sugar addition in your diet does not cause satisfaction. It severely damages the metabolic so that you are constantly snacking up.
By comparison, foods that are rich in proteins are satiating and one is less likely to overeat. But how exactly does this work? Sugar leads to resistance of a hormone known as leptin. Leptin is a hormone produced by adipocytes (these are fat cells) found in the body.
Ideally, the higher the amount of fat one has, the higher the amount of leptin present. The function of leptin is to send signals to the brain to communicate that one is full, and therefore needs to stop eating. In addition to this, leptin’s action increases the amount of energy expended.
It is interesting to note that in obese persons, leptin is produced in higher amounts as there are more fat cells. The issue here, however, is not that leptin is not functional. Rather, it is because of leptin resistance. This explains why people eat far more calories that their bodies can burn.
As a result of this, the brain processes that the fat cells are empty creating signals that allow one to keep eating. This explains why sugar leaves you feeling unsatisfied and is among the profound reasons why you should quit sugar. To reverse leptin resistance and improve satiety, sugar has to be removed from your dietary intake.
3. Sugar will Make you Add the Pounds:
Closely related to reduced satiety, one of the negative side effects of sugar consumption is that it makes you add the pounds – which explains in part why, even after lots of exercises you still cannot seem to lose the weight. This excess weight is not only attributed to the overeating mentioned above, it is also tied to the function of insulin produced by the body.
Excess sugar in blood circulation places great stress on the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ tasked with insulin production. When this happens, other hormonal functions related to weight regulation, stress management and metabolic reactions in the body are neglected.
This imbalance is especially obvious with an increased production of cortisol. Cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone, triggers the metabolic systems to go into conservation mode. This results in decreased metabolism and a lower capacity to burn fat – which in turn directly translates to more weight.
4. Sugar Makes it Easy to Stay Unmotivated:
There’s a very big reason why high sugar intake leads to lethargy and less motivation. Every time you consume sugar, there’s a surge of a brain chemical known as dopamine. Now, dopamine is a motivation neurochemical that is released and associated with ‘pleasure’.
With increased sugar intake, the brain reduces the production of dopamine over a period of time so that there’s significantly less joy associated with healthy eating. It is a simple explanation why it is easy to pick a box of chocolate that it is to enjoy a fresh salad. It destroys motivation and, guess what! Makes it even harder to lose weight.
5. Sugar is Responsible for Brain Fog and may lead to Depression:
Interestingly, staying unmotivated is not the only way sugar affects the brain! Turns out brain fog is one of the most common reasons why you need to stop eating sugar! Much of this is linked to the highs you feel after a sugar-laden meal which leads to spiked insulin production followed by the plummeting levels that explain those unforeseen midday crashes at work.
Simply put, the brain does not need any of that added sugar. Studies also indicate that increased sugar intake disrupts the production of brain chemicals tasked with mood regulation, thus leading to a higher chance of anxiety and depression.
6. Sugar Affects your Immune System:
Do you find yourself getting sick from time to time? Let it come as no surprise that sugar could be the hidden culprit behind your bouts of sickness. Sugar is well known to suppress the immune system, which in turn predisposes you to getting sick far more often.
This happens because sugar deactivates the immune system’s T-cells. T-cells are part of the body’s immunity tasked with fighting off bacterial infections. What is interesting to note is that this can last anywhere between a couple of days and a month depending on how much sugar you consume.
Such an immune system makes you more vulnerable to getting the flu when winter comes by and even gets in the way of seemingly simple tasks. As mentioned above, sugar also increases the production of cortisol hormone. The elevated levels of the stress hormone weaken the immune system further and increase the chances of getting sick every now and then.
7. Sugar has What is Known as ‘Empty Calories’:
Sugar does not contain any minerals, vitamins or key nutrients, hence the use of the term empty calories – there is no doubt about that. In fact, most treats that are high in sugar contain very little essential nutrients, if any.
Essential nutrients are required for the optimal functioning of the body. With this in mind, it is important to note that people who consume lots of sugar are actually at risk of key nutrients required in the body.
8. Sugar Significantly Increases the Risk of Western Diseases:
Western diseases are loosely defined as diseases which often affect people residing in developed countries. Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to many of these diseases. Needless to say, sugar is the single largest contributing factor of poor health in many of these first world nations.
Below are three of the most common conditions that sugar has been associated with:
- Heart disease – Sugar leads to a sharp increase in the amount of bad cholesterol in the body, and if unchecked, leads to cardiovascular diseases.
- Diabetes – Sugar is, without doubt, one of the leading causes of diabetes as it has closely been linked to insulin resistance in the body.
- Obesity – The relationship between sugar and weight gain has been outlined above. If this is not addressed, it causes obesity which, in many countries, is cause for concern especially in children.
NOTE: While cancer is not categorized as a western disease, it is still important to make mention of the fact that sugar feeds cancerous cells. A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen in 2013 showed that increased sugar intake aided the aggressive growth of malignant cells in different parts of the body.
9. Sugar Destroys the Function of the Liver:
Added sugar (especially in the form of fructose), upon consumption, is metabolized by the liver. In instances where there is a low concentration of liver glycogen, say after an intense workout or marathon, this fructose is metabolized to restore normal levels.
The problem arises from the fact that many people are not using up the fructose, and their livers are already packed with glycogen. When this happens, as is often the case, the liver converts the fructose into fat. While some of the fat may be transported from the liver, most of it remains within the organ itself.
Over a period of time and with reduced activity, the fat accumulates in the liver, ultimately leading to Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This interferes with the normal function of the liver and complicates normal metabolic functions in the body.
10. Sugar Causes Your Skin to Age Faster and Destroys Teeth:
It is a well-known fact that sugar promotes wrinkle formation on the skin. This is closely related to collagen and elastin which are the two most important proteins required for the synthesis of healthy skin cells. When there is an excess amount of sugar in the body, the sugar molecules attach to collagen and elastin through a process known as glycation.
The end-products of the process of glycation are Advanced Glycation End Products (abbreviated AGEs). AGEs reduce the strength in the skin’s support system, and this is what leads to the formation of wrinkles and lines on the skin. In the absence of elastin, the skin stretches and starts to sag early, giving the impression of weak aging skin.
In addition to this, it goes without saying that sugar is responsible for poor oral health in many people. Excessive sugar is used up by the resident bacteria in the mouth which break it down to produce acids. These acids have a corrosive effect on the enamel of the tooth.
The enamel is the outer covering of the tooth. Once this structure is destroyed over repeated acid attacks, it exposes the inner structure of the tooth, leading to cavity formation that damages teeth.
It is evident that sugar is not good for your health. Its negative side effects listed above are more than enough proof. The simple fact that sugar has an impact on how the brain functions (releasing dopamine and reducing motivation) means that quitting sugar is not as easy as it sounds. A good place to start in quitting sugar is to get into the right frame of mind. This means acknowledging that sugar is bad for your health.
Making this decision is fundamental to quitting sugar. It also creates a strong foundation for you to pick up healthy eating habits. These habits, enforced over a period of time, naturally create a distaste for the bad sugars with greater inclination for the healthy foods, This is important in reducing sugar cravings.
Remember to build on these habits one routine at a time to help you stick to them. It helps to do this with a group of accountability partners to help you stop eating sugar. Lastly, always check the labels on most packaged foods as these tend to be extremely high in added sugar.