It may taste sweet, but it can be extremely harmful to your health. From depression to heart disease, the sugar in your diet can wreak havoc on your health.
21 ways sugar is making you sick
Here are some ways in which the deformity manifests in poor health.
1. It hurts your heart
According to Dr. K. K. Talwar, head of Cardiology at Delhi’s Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, the biggest sugar consumers are far more likely to develop conditions such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, and high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
The Indian diet, typically high in carbohydrates, also includes sweet dishes of various kinds—eaten at the end of a meal, during celebrations, or even as an evening snack.
Rapid weight gain and cardiac problems follow in the long run.” (The worst offenders? Sweetened beverages, grain-based treats, fruit drinks, dairy, and ghee-based desserts.)
2. No sugar added’ doesn’t mean ‘healthy’
If the label says ‘100 percent juice’, don’t chug with abandon. Even if the drink has no added sweeteners, its naturally occurring sugars are far more concentrated than you’d find in a piece of fruit.
And unlike an orange or apple, which is high in fiber, juice offers empty calories and is of minimal nutritional value.
In February 2017, researchers at the University of Bath, UK, found a molecular link between sugary diets and early Alzheimer’s.
The scientists discovered that glycation—a reaction through which glucose affects cells—causes damage to an important enzyme that’s involved in the reduction of abnormal protein buildup in the brain, which is characteristic of the disease.
4. Sugar won’t make kids hyper; It’s worse than that
A meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that sugar does not affect children’s behavior.
But it does “lead to poor health in the short term and obesity in the long term,” says Dr. Archana Dayal, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Institute of Child Health in Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
“Childhood obesity can lead to cholesterol issues, hypertension, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
These lead to ‘metabolic syndrome’, a condition that raises one’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases at a young age,” she adds.
5. STEALTH SUGAR STOWS AWAY IN SNACKS
These five convenience foods may appear to be healthier choices, but they often contain startlingly large amounts of the sweet stuff. Consider homemade alternatives instead.
On average, a single cup of a regular-flavored malt-based health drink contains around six to eight grams of sugar, if one goes by the recommended quantities.
Conventional wisdom suggests stashing trail mix in your car or bag for a healthy snack on the go, but 100 grams of a commercial variety can contain 16 or more grams of sugar.
Grabbing a salad for lunch may seem like a savvy dietary choice, but it’s important to know that some bottled dressings, such as French and Caesar, often have six or more grams of sugar for each two-tablespoon serving.
A 100-gram serving of fruit-flavored yogurt can contain anywhere between 13 to 20 grams of sugar. If you top it with a quarter cup of store-bought granola, you’re downing another six to 10 grams.
OATMEAL OR MUESLI
Flavored Oatmeal packets or muesli may seem like a healthy strategy for busy mornings, but some varieties can contain as much as 20 grams of sugar in each 100-gram portion.
(Heaping on another tablespoon of brown sugar adds an extra 12 grams.)
6. 25.1 KGS
The amount of sugar consumed by the average Indian adult in a year, according to a 2014 Indian study titled Sugar Intake, Obesity, and Diabetes in India.
This figure includes ‘white’ sugar, natural sugars (jaggery and khandsari) as well as sugar-sweetened beverages.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Seema Gulati, head, National Diabetes, Obesity, and Cholesterol Foundation, says that the number indicates that India ranks higher than the average global sugar consumption levels of 23.7 kgs a year.
It also far exceeds the World Health Organization’s recommendation that sugar comprises less than 5 percent of one’s total energy intake.
7. ‘Healthier’ sweeteners
are not much better Those trying to cut down on sugar can try natural alternatives—coconut or palm sugar, jaggery, dates, raisins, figs, or stevia—all of which have micronutrients.
“The FDA deems sweeteners such as stevia as healthy and safe. But anything in excessive amounts is toxic. Exercise moderation,” says Kolkata-based endocrinologist, Dr. Binayak Sinha.
Gulati echoes this view: “These are all high in calories so consume judiciously,” she says.
8. Artificial sweeteners—do they help?
The evidence is mounting against sucralose, saccharine, and aspartame. They’re associated with weight gain and glucose intolerance, the two things people use them to prevent.
“Based on what we know, I wouldn’t consume those products—or give them to my kids,” says Laura A.Schmidt, a professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.
Dharini Krishnan, the former chairperson of the Indian Dietetic Association, agrees: “Long-term consumption of such add-ons, commonly found in diet colas,
for example, can lead to a wide range of side effects, including changes to one’s gut microbiome, which can lead to serious health problems.”
9. Sugar messes with our cholesterol
A 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that as subjects’ added-sugar intake went up, their levels of HDL (good cholesterol) dropped, increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study also found that women in particular who ate more added sugar had higher levels of LDL density (bad cholesterol).
10. We’re still drinking too much liquid sugar
Good news: We’re drinking less fizzy drinks than we were a decade ago. Bad news: We’ve replaced it with options that may be just as unhealthy.
A 2019 report states that the global market value of sports and energy drinks reached $102.9 billion in 2018 and
could reach $169.7 billion by 2024.
Energy drinks contain up to 84 g of sugar (around 16 tsp) while sports drinks contain around 40 grams (8 tsp) per serving.
11. Sugar may keep us up at night
A 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that eating more sugar (along with less fiber and more saturated fat) is associated with lighter, more disrupted, and less restorative sleep.
12. Cancer cells ‘feed’ on sugar
New research from the University of Texas at Dallas shows a link between sugar and squamous cell carcinoma, which is hard to treat and accounts for a quarter of all lung cancers.
The study also found that four other types of squamous cell cancer also consume a lot of sugar.
13. Sugar can make you sad
Ending a bad day with a bowl of ice cream may make you feel worse in the long run. In 2015,
Columbia University Medical Center researchers found postmenopausal women with diets high in added sugars and refined grains were at an increased risk of new-onset depression,
while the risk decreased in subjects who ate more dietary fiber, whole grains, vegetables, and unprocessed fruits.
14. It destroys your skin
“Apart from aggravating skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema, sugar causes hyperpigmentation and destroys collagen, resulting in duller, looser skin and wrinkles,” says Dr. Jaishree Sharad, medical director, Skinfiniti, Mumbai.
15. Beware: You may be eating incognito sugar
Manufacturers use sneaky pseudonyms to fool you into thinking their food isn’t packed with the sweet stuff.
Here are some examples:
- Carob powder
- Corn syrup
- Dextrin or maltodextrin
- Diastatic malt
- Ethyl maltol
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- High-fructose corn syrup
16. Some food labels can hide the sugar content
77% of respondents in a Chennai-based study in March this year admitted they never check sugar quantities on food labels.
“Always check ingredients,” advises Krishnan. “Even foods such as chips and ketchup have sugar. Also, check quantities with respect to serving size—26 g of sugar in a 100-g item is too high.”
A recent proposal by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India that all high-sugar and high-fat packaged foods display red color coding on the front, could help.
17. Sweets are worse than salt for hypertension
Normal blood pressure falls between 90/60 and 120/80.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in 2010, a high-fructose diet can push your blood pressure over the threshold of 120/80, which is considered the upper end of normal.
In a 2014 research review published in the BMJ Open Heart journal, medical experts argued that sugar intake may have the most dramatic effect on modulating blood pressure—and, in fact, could be more detrimental to heart health than sodium consumption.
18. Sugar is as bad for your liver as alcohol
Unlike other forms of sugar, fructose, which occurs naturally in fruit, is processed in the liver. Consuming too much of it, thanks to foods with added sweeteners, is leading to a rise in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
One visible sign: a sugar belly (yes, like a beer belly). Livers break down excess fructose into fat globules that travel through the bloodstream and lodge around the midsection and internal organs.
And, like the liver damage caused by alcohol, NAFLD causes inflammation and scarring.
19. Sweet treats ruin your teeth …
Your childhood dentist was right—sugar causes cavities.
- 1. You sip a sweet coffee-shop beverage.
- 2. Bacteria in your mouth thrive on sugar, which provides them with energy.
- 3. Those microorganisms multiply, creating a film of plaque on the surface of your teeth.
- 4. The plaque produces an acid that dissolves the minerals that make up the hard surface of your teeth.
- 5. The longer plaque builds up, the worse the damage. Tiny holes appear and expand until they become cavities.
20. And make your gums bleed
Most kids grow up learning about the connection between candy and cavities.
As it turns out, a high-sugar diet also inflames your gums and increases your risk of periodontal disease, based on a 2014 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Signs of periodontal disease include bad breath, bleeding gums, and sensitive teeth.
21. You might be addicted
Though some researchers quibble with the idea that sugar is addictive, past studies, including a 2015 paper out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
do show that the sweet stuff elevates levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which forms a key part of the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, in a way that’s remarkably similar to the effects of tobacco and morphine.
“There’s growing evidence that sugar leads to cravings and withdrawal, which are the hallmarks of addictive disorders,” says Schmidt. “You can see the effects on an MRI.
” Now, Australian researchers have discovered that drugs typically used to treat nicotine and cocaine addiction, such as varenicline, could be employed to help so-called sugar addicts kick their habits as well.