We all know sugar’s bad for us, but do we know exactly why? We’ve rounded up the top reasons why you should be cutting back on the white stuff.
Your parents were right about candy rotting your teeth. Sugar provides the perfect source of energy for the bacteria living in your mouth, creating enamel-eating acid that can lead to tooth decay and open the way for cavities.
Tooth decay is the most common non-infectious disease in the world, with one study finding that 92 percent of adults in the US have suffered from the effects of sugar on their teeth. And that’s certainly not something to smile about says Dr Wleed Haq, an Implant Dentist who trained in London’s famous Harley Street.
Although it’s well known that weight gain as a result of high sugar intake can result in diabetes, a direct link between sugar itself and the disease had previously been ruled out. This was until a recent study by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School found that consuming too much dietary sugar could trigger a process in the body that leads to prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
These days it can seem like we’re inundated with potential cancer threats. But if there’s one bit of advice worth listening to, it’s the cancer warning around sugar. Sugar consumption has been linked to breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer, amongst a host of other types. Although there is yet to be a proven direct link between sugar and cancer, the fat created by excess sugar has been shown to increase our risk of developing cancer.
You probably already know this one, but it’s worth repeating: too much sugar can make us obese. Studies in both adults and children have shown a direct link between sugar consumption and weight gain. Obesity can in turn increase the risk of all sorts of diseases, from diabetes to heart disease. In 2010 alone, it was estimated that obesity caused 3.4 million deaths.
If you suffer from regular tummy trouble you may want to look at your daily sugar intake. Studies have shown that switching to a high-sugar diet can change the composition of your gut flora within 24 hours. One recent study suggested that excess sugar can promote the growth of bad bacteria in your gut.
These imbalances can weaken your immune system, mess with your digestion, and even potentially lead to autoimmune responses such as allergies.
Cutting down on your sugar intake could actually make you smarter. One of the lesser known risks associated with excess sugar intake is its effect on your grey matter. One study published in the American Academy of Neurology showed that lower blood sugar levels are associated with better brain function, potentially decreasing our risk of developing age-related memory loss conditions such as dementia.
When you think about how often you reach for chocolate and other sugary snacks when you’re feeling down, it might be surprising to hear how sugar can actually worsen your mood. Researchers have shown that high blood sugar can increase the risk of depression and aggravate the symptoms of other mood disorders, such as schizophrenia. Anxiety sufferers may also experience heightened symptoms of panic attacks after eating sugar. This may be because sugar impairs the body’s ability to cope with stress.
Weight gain is not the only noticeable effect of indulging in too much sugar. As well as a larger waist line, the sweet stuff has been linked to increased aging. When sugar gets into our blood it can attach to proteins which cause advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These then attack the fibres in collagen and elastin, the proteins that are key to keeping our skin supple.
For a long time salt was thought to be the worst offender when it came to heart disease. But it turns out the wrong white stuff was to blame. Although too much sodium is also bad for our heart’s health, sugar likely causes the most problems. A 2014 study found that those participants whose calorie intake was made up of 25 percent sugar were found to have double the risk of developing heart disease compared to those whose intake was seven percent.
There aren’t many organs that sugar doesn’t affect. For your kidneys, sugar poses a risk in that it can attack the microvascular vessels, increasing the risk of developing disease in this vital organ. Any damage to our kidneys can affect its ability to regulate blood pressure, salt, mineral, and fluid balance, so is it really worth that extra sugar in your coffee?
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