Sugar is present in many of todays foods and drinks. On average, Americans consume over 60 pounds f added sugar per year – this excludes naturally occurring sugar, like that found in fruit or juice. Daily, this breaks down to about 76.7 grams or 19 teaspoons. That’s 306 additional calories consumed daily because of sugar. As good as this sweetener can taste, the key to a healthier life is reducing our daily intake of sugar. Sugar can greatly interfere the natural responses in the body and cause numerous health issues. Here are five ways that sugar affects your body:
- Hyperactivity. When sugar is consumed and digested, it causes a spike in adrenaline that is released in the body. This is the “boost” many adults feel after drinking an energy drink or soda and is the reason why a child may act like they are “bouncing off the walls” after eating some candy. Following this spike in adrenaline, once it wears out, the body “crashes” and becomes extremely lethargic. Excessive sugar intake can also cause irregular sleeping habits. Children and adults who are already sensitive to hyperactivity, such as those diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, can greatly benefit from limited sugar intake.
- Diabetes. When sugar is ingested, glucose levels rise. To combat these high glucose levels, the pancreas must work hard to produce insulin. Insulin removes excessive sugar/glucose from the blood and a diagnosis of diabetes occurs when the pancreas is too overworked to produce enough insulin to combat the sugar levels. A diabetic must inject themselves with insulin to keep up with the glucose levels in their body. This is why many diabetics are advised by their physician to watch what they eat and avoid sugary snacks and beverages.
- Behavioral Changes. Aside from hyperactivity, sugar can also cause several changes in a person’s mood, including increased irritability, and can heighten an individual’s anxiety or affect their reaction to stressors. Did you know that scientific research has proven that sugar is as addictive as cocaine? Even withdrawals from sugar can have similar symptoms: headaches, irritability, cravings, aches and pains, mood swings, and some may even experience “the shakes”.
- Lower Immune System Function. When sugar is ingested it causes more than just visible changes like hyperactivity; it also changes the body internally. Sugar reduces the efficiency of white blood cells and this effect can last for at least five hours. That’s a minimum of five hours that your body is not able to fully fight off bacteria, germs, and potential diseases – even the common cold. A simple illness can progress into something more serious, and with continuous sugar intake, it will take longer for you to recover.
- Increases LDLs. Another internal side effect of sugar intake is the effect it has on the levels of cholesterol in the body. Your body has two types of cholesterol: the “good” kind and the “bad” kind. The “bad” types of cholesterol are Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDLs). This type of cholesterol is the kind that builds up around your heart and in your arteries, leading to risk of stroke, heart attack, or other heart disease. High-Density Lipoproteins (HDLs) are the “good” kinds of cholesterol; they carry “bad” cholesterol from your body to your liver where it is processed for removal. Sugar causes HDL levels to decrease which in turn causes LDL levels to increase.
Reducing the amount of sugar you consume, can lead to a healthier body and an overall healthier lifestyle. Taking care of your body is important, it’s the only one you get!