The topic we want to avoid … because it is so nice
Why is sugar bad for you?
Sugar causes glucose levels to spike and plummet
Unstable blood sugar can leave you experiencing mood swings, fatigue, and headaches. It also contributes to cravings, which begins the cycle of false hunger. By contrast, those who avoid sugar report having fewer cravings while feeling more emotionally balanced and energized.
Your immune functions can be affected by sugar
As if being sick wasn’t bad enough, studies have shown that sugar can interfere with the way your body fights disease. Bacteria and yeast feed on sugar, so excess glucose in the body causes these organisms to build up and cause infections.
Sugar accelerates aging
While you probably know that sugars can affect your body composition, they can also mess with your skin by contributing to wrinkles and sagging. After sugar hits your bloodstream, it attaches to proteins. The mix of these proteins with sugar causes the skin to lose elasticity and leads to premature aging.
Sugar affects cognition in children
Let’s not forget about our little ones! When New York City public schools reduced the amount of sugar in their lunches and breakfasts, their academic ranking increased 15.7% (previously, the greatest improvement ever seen had been 1.7%).11 The study also eliminated artificial colors, synthetic flavoring, and two preservatives, showing the importance of natural ingredients for children.
Sugar increases stress
When we’re under stress, our bodies immediately kick into fight-or-flight mode, releasing large amounts of hormones. Surprisingly, the body has the same chemical response when blood sugar is low. After you eat a sweet snack, stress hormones begin to compensate for the crash by raising your blood sugar. The result? Unexplained anxiousness, irritability, and even shakiness.
Sugar takes the place of important nutrients
According to USDA data, people who consume the most sugar have the lowest intakes of essential nutrients––especially vitamins A, C, B-12, and calcium. The trade-off is especially dangerous for children and teens, who simultaneously consume the most sugar and need the most nutrients.12
Sugar and our brain
The brain uses more energy than any other organ in the human body and glucose is its source of fuel. But what happens when the brain is exposed to the excessive amount of sugars in the standard American diet? In this case, more is definitely not better.
In the brain, excess sugar impairs both our cognitive skills and our self-control (having a little sugar stimulates a craving for more). Sugar has drug-like effects in the reward center of the brain. Scientists have proposed that sweet foods—along with salty and fatty foods—can produce addiction-like effects in the human brain, driving loss of self-control, overeating, and subsequent weight gain.
In humans, high-glycemic foods have been found to activate regions of the brain associated with the reward response and provoke more intense feelings of hunger compared to low-glycemic foods. Foods that cause a higher elevation in blood glucose produce a greater addictive drive in the brain.
Elevated blood glucose harms blood vessels. Blood vessel damage is the major cause of the vascular complications of diabetes, leading to other problems, such as damage to blood vessels in the brain and eyes causing retinopathy. Studies of long-term diabetics show progressive brain damage leading to deficits in learning, memory, motor speed, and other cognitive functions.
Frequent exposure to high glucose levels diminishes mental capacity, as higher HbA1c levels have been associated with a greater degree of brain shrinkage. Even in those without diabetes, higher sugar consumption is associated with lower scores on tests of cognitive function. These effects are thought to be due to a combination of hyperglycemia, hypertension, insulin resistance, and elevated cholesterol.
Any sugar added in our food is dangerous. We can avoid these dangers by satisfying our sweet tooth with fresh fruit in place of refined sugars. Other concentrated sweeteners, such as agave, honey, and maple syrup are equally dangerous. By eating fresh fruit we get the satisfying sweetness and the added bonus of the fruit’s fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that curtail the surge of sugar in the bloodstream and block its negative effects.