Ten Ways Sugar Makes You Sick

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My friend Melanie is a self-proclaimed sugar addict. She craves it all—candy, doughnuts, bread and yogurt. She generally eats a healthy diet but allows sugary treats several times a week, such as a candy bar here, a mini dessert there, a bowl of cereal before bed.

She was complaining about feeling tired, so her doctor suggested she cut back on sugar. Two weeks later, she says her energy levels have skyrocketed, and she’s not forgetting why she walked into the kitchen.

Is sugar making us fat? Probably, but is sugar also making us sick? The proof is in the pudding (and the pasta). People would probably be shocked at the amount of sugar they are eating daily. When a typical can of soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar and upwards of 240 calories, sugar snags are everywhere.

Although sweet treats can give us a quick pick-me-up, they really don’t offer any other benefits. Sugar can become like alcohol, too, addictive and without nutritional value. And if consumed in excess, it can open us up to a host of health issues.

Weight Gain
As if you’re going to read about sugar and not hear about weight gain, right? The fact is, when we eat sugar, it doesn’t satisfy our appetite and often leaves us hungrier. Plus, all sugars are not created equally. For instance, we can eat a cookie or an apple with about the same amount of sugar. But the apple also has vitamins, antioxidants and fiber that add to our overall health instead of spiking our blood sugar.

Increased Blood Sugar and Diabetes
Eating sugar doesn’t directly cause diabetes, but weight gain and obesity from too much sugar increases the risk of diabetes. If a person develops diabetes, symptoms can become worse when she eats too much sugar, and so the sick cycle begins.

Fatty Liver
Liver disease has generally been associated with too much alcohol, but recent research suggests that one of the most common types of sugar, fructose, can be toxic to the liver, just like alcohol. Different than any other sugar, fructose is metabolized in the liver. Small amounts are okay, but overindulging in fructose-laden foods can cause this crucial organ to malfunction.

Heart Disease
In addition to high blood pressure, all the above health issues are linked to heart disease. Many of them are the effects of added sugar intake, so the higher the sugar intake, the better our chances of heart disease and stroke.

It Screws Your Skin
Have you ever heard of sugar face? Yep, it’s a thing. Ask about any dermatologist and they will tell you that too much sugar breaks down collagen, which keeps our skin plump and lifted, and causes inflammation. It can also weaken the immune system, which can lead to bacteria overload, causing pimples and clogged pores.

Brain Fog
This might explain why you try to put the milk in the dishwasher and your keys in the refrigerator. You might have heard the term “brain fog.” It isn’t a medical condition, but it does mess with our thoughts, and experts say sugar can add to the confusion. Blood glucose levels increase dramatically when we binge on simple sugars. They eventually come back down again, along with our ability to make basic decisions.

Low Drag
If you’re sluggish much of the day and relying on fast fixes such as sugar and caffeine to pick you up, chances are your blood sugar levels are erratic and unpredictable. We often choose sugar when we’re low on energy, which harnesses us right into a sugar roller coaster. Cutting back on the sweet stuff will help alleviate those big highs and lousy lows.

Sickly Smile
Since we started kindergarten, we’ve been told that sugar isn’t so good for our smile. Turns out, the school nurse was right. Too much sugar causes plaque, and plaque is whack! By eating away at our tooth enamel, plaque makes way for gum disease and cavities.

Say What?
Experts don’t know exactly why, but high-sugar diets can lead to impaired hearing and even hearing loss in diabetic patients. Excess sugar damages nerves in the body and that includes the nerves that contribute to our hearing.

Grumpy McPherson
As if we needed more to be bummed about, studies show that excessive sugar consumption can make mental health issues even worse. Too much sugar often results in anxiety and overloaded stress levels, putting us in a bad mood.

Let’s face it. Sugar is tasty and most of us like it. Maybe cutting it out entirely isn’t realistic, but we can cut back to reap the benefits. Chances are, if you’re a super-sugar-lover, you will see big rewards when you refrain from the sweets but every so often enjoy a “treat.” ■

Sources: health.harvard.edu, health24.com, healthyhearing.com and sugarscience.ucsf.edu.