Too much added sugar increases the risk of serious medical conditions such as weight gain, acne, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Sugar is everywhere – If we pay close attention to the ingredients list, we might discover that every processed food and beverage we come across contains added sugar.

How can added sugar impact your health?

Sugar-sweetened drinks contain high levels of fructose, which increases your hunger pangs and urge to eat more. Thus, any sugar-laden drink will not satiate your hunger but, in contrast, make you eat more calories. Also, consuming sugary beverages contributes to the accumulation of abdominal (belly) fat, which has been linked to the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The following are some of the ways in which sugar impacts your overall well-being:

  1. Heart disease – A study conducted for 25,277 adults shows that people who consume high-sugar can have a higher risk of developing coronary complications than people who follow a low-sugar diet
  2. Type 2 diabetes – Consuming foods rich in added sugar leads to obesity and insulin resistance, which increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
  3. Acne trouble – Foods with a high glycemic index (GI) have the ability to cause the risk of acne when compared to food with a low glycemic index.
  4. Rapid aging process – A diet rich in refined carbs and sugar results in the production of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs), which damage collagen and elastin.
  5. Fatty liver – Fructose, which is found in sweetened beverages, is exclusively broken down by the liver (unlike glucose, which gets easily absorbed by the bloodstream). Overdose of fructose in the liver leads to excess fat, which can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

How does sugar negatively affect your brain?

The brain gets its daily fuel from glucose, and it requires more energy than any other part of our body. The mechanism of reward response occurs when the brain gets rewarded by an entity—it could be food, sleep, drugs etc. When we consume sugar, the mesolimbic dopamine system (the “feel-good” hormones) gets activated. Each time our brain gets rewarded, it craves more of the same activity—thus we end up craving more sweets.

Impact on the brain’s reward response

Consuming high-glycemic foods activates the part of the brain responsible for craving and reward responses. It is also found that very sweet foods can be more addictive than cocaine.

High-glycemic foods (foods rich in glycemic index) can not be digested easily and cause a surge in the blood sugar level. Examples: sugar-rich foods, processed foods, potatoes, and junk food.

Impact on memory

An increase in the glucose level in the bloodstream can possibly be the cause of slow cognitive abilities, memory deficits, and a lack of attention. All these effects are temporary and can be reversed by following a low-GI diet

Low-glycemic foods (foods low in glycemic index) can be digested easily and help control blood sugar levels and body weight. It has the potential to decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Examples: fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.

Impact on mental moods

A high amount of sugar consumption causes emotional mood swings. A study conducted with 23,245 individuals proves that higher sugar levels can have a direct impact on high levels of depression. According to a study published in Scientific Reports (2017), 23% of people who increased their sugar intake were found to be at higher risk of having a mental disorder. 

Research conducted on rats shows that high-sugar foods have the ability to modify inhibitory neurons. During the study, the rats were unable to control their cognitive behavior and decision-making.

How to reduce the impact of sugar?

In this day and age, we depend on quick meals to satisfy our hunger pangs. Little do we know that such processed foods are laden with sugar, making up a large part of our daily calorie intake. An average adult consumes about 17 teaspoons of sugar, which forms 14% of a typical 2000-calorie diet. Experts advise consuming less than 10% of sugar in your daily diet.

It is better to satisfy our sugar cravings with fresh fruits instead of added sugar, which gives the benefits of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. Substituting sweets with omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin powder helps increase memory power. If we reduce the consumption of processed, high-sugar foods, it also helps our bodies avoid the effects of added sugars.

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