Why is sugar bad for you?
Sugar is one smooth criminal.
It hides in salad dressings and fruit smoothies, cunningly disguises itself as syrups and sweeteners.
Sugar celebrates your favourite occasions, and commiserates with you during the hard times.
Birthday? Halloween? Break-up?
Sugar will wrap you up in its sticky embrace and convince you that it’s your friend.
Receiving a lollipop from the dentist, a free candy bowl at the office, or even that chocolate bar deal of the week at the supermarket- we make it easy for sugar to take control.
But how much control does sugar have? And what is it doing to our bodies?
These are the right kind of questions to be asking.
The first step in recognizing the hold sugar has over you is understanding what it’s doing to your body. We would all like to live in a world where we can eat whatever we want, do minimal exercise, and still have the body of a triathlete.
However, if in reality, you’re like me and more experienced shopping for clothes that hide the muffin top popping over the top of your jeans, then get ready to find out just what sugar is doing to your body to cause this kind of seemingly immovable, stubborn excess belly fat.
I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 reasons sugar is bad for you, and I think you’ll be surprised by how many of these things make an appearance in your daily life.
1. Sugar can cause weight gain
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is: does sugar make you fat?
The short answer is yes.
So the question then becomes: how does sugar make you fat?
When sugar or any processed carbohydrates enter the body, they quickly get converted into glucose.
Glucose then gets converted into energy in your cells and this is what will give you that sugar rush 10 minutes after consuming sugar.
But your cells can only produce energy at a certain rate, so if there is too much glucose in the body, it has to go somewhere else.
The excess glucose in your body gets stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen (this is basically just stored energy).
Unfortunately, the liver and muscles can only store a small amount of glucose (about 1,700 calories).
So once the muscles and liver are full of glucose, the excess glucose has only one place to go… your fat cells.
Fat cells can store a LOT more glucose (sugar) – up to 70,000 calories.
As your fat cells store more glucose, this shows up as fat on your body.
The first place this excess appears is around the belly.
Since the majority of this process first happens in and around the liver, and your liver is located in the belly region, this is the first place fat will get stored (Dr Eric Berg goes into more detail about that process here).
2. Sugar increases your risks of depression
Your diet plays a key role in your mental health, and eating highly processed foods with a high sugar content has been proven to heighten the likelihood of becoming depressed.
A study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry discovered that people who consumed a lot of processed foods, had a 58% increased risk for depression.
Alternatively, those people whose diet contains mostly whole foods, had a 26% reduced risk for depression.
You can read more about the study here.
Sugar does not discriminate, the impact of excess sugar affects men and woman, old and young alike.
Do you self medicate with sugar?
We often find ourselves self medicating our depression with more sugar, without realizing that sugar is causing the depression.
You have a bad day, go home and eat your feelings.
By the end of the evening you’re feeling worse than before the ice-cream/ pizza/ Chinese take-out and feel both bloated and unmotivated.
That’s not the bad day causing your fatigue, that’s the come down from all the processed foods.
Your body is still sending you signals saying it’s hungry and tired, but you’ve eaten more than enough for one meal.
The next day is slightly better and something good happens to brighten your mood- so you reward yourself with a nice frappuccino or muffin from the local bakery.
Mid-afternoon hits and you’re slumped over your desk.
Your body once again sending mixed signals of having too much energy whilst at the same time find yourself unable to gather the motivation you need to finish sending that last email of the day.
Have you ever felt at the centre of this vicious cycle?
These are just a couple of examples, but I think you can see how sugar twists itself into being whatever you need for the mood you’re in.
3. It makes you feel tired all the time
For a short period of time, after you’ve eaten processed sugar you’ll have a burst of energy.
This is because sugar gets converted into glucose, and then that glucose is converted into energy in your cells.
But your cells can only create energy at a certain rate, so once your cells have converted enough glucose into energy they stop allowing glucose in.
During this time no more energy gets made and you start to experience what we all know as a sugar crash.
Usually in this situation we reach for more sugar to give us another boost of energy, but this makes the problem much worse over time.
After frequent sugar consumption, your cells start to develop what’s called insulin resistance.
This is when the insulin receptors in your cells get damaged as a result of too much sugar in your body.
The insulin receptors are what allow your cells to take in the glucose to convert it into energy.
When your insulin receptors are damaged, they can’t allow any glucose or other nutrients to go into your cells, meaning you will not be able to create energy.
So after long periods of consuming sugar, you will feel tired all the time.
I go into more detail about sugar’s impact on your energy levels in this animated video
4. It causes mood swings
Have you ever been hangry?
Maybe you’ve noticed a theme emerging when your tummy starts rumbling and there’s no food on the horizon? Crankiness, impatience, even sudden irrational rage all falls under the umbrella of a hangry mood.
There is actual science to explain your behaviour in these instances and, you guessed it, sugar can be largely responsible.
Consuming lots of processed carbohydrates and sugars causes dramatic spikes in your blood sugar.
When this spike happens, it leads to increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and gives you a short term energy boost.
But after this initial boost of energy, symptoms under the guise of fatigue or headaches are common.
More so, when your blood sugar inevitably drops from the high it just had, low blood sugar can lead to feelings of anxiety and irritability.
5. Sugar causes bad skin and wrinkles
Have you noticed dark circles under your eyes? Or maybe you have some premature age lines?
Sugar is your skin’s enemy.
It can cause inflammation, aggravate acne, exacerbate rosacea, and promote sagging skin on your face.
Eating processed sugar and other similar simple carbohydrates (flour for one) has an immediate and direct impact on your skin.
Excess sugar in the body can get stuck onto proteins created by what’s called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).
This is basically when the sugar and protein bind, creating a sticky structure that starts to clog up your body.
Proteins responsible for building skin like Elastin and Collagen are especially vulnerable to turning into AGEs.
Collagen and Elastin are responsible for keeping your skin looking tighter, healthier and younger.
When you consume too much sugar and create these AGEs, your skin will develop more wrinkles, start to sag and you’ll develop dark circles under your eyes.
Put simply, sugar makes your skin look older.
6. And of course, diabetes
No doubt this isn’t a surprise to you.
But it’s a hugely important factor to consider since:
Most people don’t realize how close they are to being diagnosed with diabetes.
I talked about insulin resistance in the third point (sugar makes you tired), and it’s significance cannot be emphasized enough.
Insulin resistance is the main condition that leads to type 2 diabetes which is the most common form of diabetes, affecting up to 26 million American adults.
It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans have insulin resistance, with that ratio increasing to 1 in 2 Americans over the age of 60.
Many cases of insulin resistance go undiagnosed. It’s incredibly common for people not to even realize they have it, and are in fact dangerously close to developing diabetes.
7. It can lead to Cancer
As mentioned earlier, sugar consumption leads to an increase of fat in your body.
But it’s not so much the visual fat around your belly you have to worry about.
Excess fat in your body will clog up your bloodstream and organs, which can in turn lead to several types of cancer.
It’s important to bear in mind that this fat on the inside of your body affects skinny people just as much as overweight people.
So just because you don’t weigh a lot on the scales, doesn’t mean you are free from the buildup of fat on your vital organs.
It is also worth noting that excess insulin in your body caused by high blood sugar levels has similarly been linked to cancer.
Dr Marc Gunter produced a study in which he correlated unhealthy insulin levels with elevated risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.
In this study, he found that high fasting insulin levels doubled the risk of breast cancer, regardless of if the woman was overweight or not.
8. Sugar causes memory loss (Alzheimers)
This is another big one.
In fact, one of the first thing most people report after having gone 21 days without sugar on our 21 Day Sugar Free Challenge, is that their memory becomes a lot clearer.
So it’s no surprise to us that sugar has been linked not just to memory loss, but other degenerative brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimers.
With many health professionals referring to Alzheimer’s as “type 3 diabetes”, it is suggest that patients with these conditions have their glucose and insulin levels monitored as early intervention can slow or some cases reverse the disease.
Further information can be found in this research article published by Melissa A. Schilling, PHD.
9. It can lead to blurred vision (blindness)
Many people have heard how diabetes can lead to blindness.
In fact, diabetes is actually the primary cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74.
But high blood sugar levels have been linked to a variety of complications in your eyes.
In its most basic form, high blood sugar levels have been linked to blurred vision.
But prolonged excess sugar in your system can lead to:
10. Sugar is highly addictive
Have you ever baked a batch of cookies, tried to ration yourself to one cookie a day, only to eat the whole batch in one sitting? Whatever your vice, you know that sugar is addictive.
But how addictive is sugar?
Comprehensive brain scans have shown that sugar lights up the brain’s dopamine receptors 8 times more than cocaine.
Now this doesn’t directly correlate to sugar being more addictive than cocaine, but it highlights that our brains find incredibly sugar moreish.
Does it feel like you’ve tried every diet out there?
Weight Watchers, low carb, Keto, intermittent fasting.
If after all this you’re out there still wondering
“Why can’t I lose weight, no matter what I do?”
It could very likely be because your brain is completely addicted to sugar.
In order to make any long-term progress, you have to start treating your relationship with sugar like an addiction.
If you are still unconvinced just how addictive sugar is, a question I often ask people is: what would you do if sugar were made illegal tomorrow?
Imagine.. A world with no cookies, chocolate, ketchup, or soda.
Would you be totally ok with it, or would you be quickly breaking the law in search of sugar dealers?
Sugar addiction comes in many levels of severity and it’s important to treat it seriously.
At Sweet Freedom we are advocates for body positivity.
We believe that having a healthy relationship with food, and your body, starts with addressing the reality of your diet.
It’s all about balance.
Going on this journey is no overnight fix, but the first step towards reducing your sugar intake is understanding the impact sugar has on your daily life.
I hope after reading this blog you now have a clearer comprehension of the danger processed sugars pose your body.
But what next?
Now you have all this information, what can you do about it?
Sweet Freedom has created a FREE QUIZ so you can best understand what kind of sugar addict you are.
Your quiz results will not only let you know your current level of sugar addiction, but also give you practical tips and strategies on how to quit sugar for good and begin the journey to living life as your happiest, healthiest self.
Love and hugs,
Excess sugar in the blood stream gets converted into fat. The first place this fat will appear, is around the belly. Eating too much sugar over long periods of time will lead to an increase of fat in your body which increases the likelihood of you gaining weight.
Too much sugar in your diet can lead to insulin resistance. This is when your cells are unable to take in glucose and nutrients and turn them into energy. This means your body will not be able to produce energy efficiently, leaving you feeling tired all the time.
A study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry discovered that people who consumed a lot of processed foods, had a 58% increased risk for depression. Alternatively, those people whose diet contains mostly whole foods, had a 26% reduced risk for depression.
Excess sugar in the body can get stuck onto proteins created by what’s called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). Proteins responsible for building skin like Elastin and Collagen are especially vulnerable to turning into AGEs. Collagen and Elastin are responsible for keeping your skin looking tighter, healthier and younger. When you consume too much sugar and create these AGEs, your skin will develop more wrinkles, start to sag and you’ll develop dark circles under your eyes.