Eating too much sugar can mean more calories which can have an effect on your waistline.
If you are already trying to lose weight you may be already eating less sugar in your daily diet, but even if you are not looking at dropping a few pounds there are many benefits to cutting down on your sugar intake.
Sugar, especially added sugar is the one to cut down on the most. The natural sugars found in fruit also contain nutrients that can be good for you but the high amount of added sugars that can be found in sodas can be bad.
1. It can lower your blood pressure…
Obesity, one of the main consequences of excessive added sugar intake, is a major risk factor for high blood pressure. New research shows that added dietary sugars – independent from weight gain – can also raise blood pressure. And this is no small thing.
High blood pressure increases the workload of the heart and arteries and can cause damage over time to the whole circulatory system. Eventually, this can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, kidney damage, artery disease and other serious coronary conditions.
What’s more: People who have diets where at least 25 per cent of the calories came from added sugar are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who have diets where added sugars make up less than 10 per cent of the food they eat.
2. It can help prevent fatty liver disease
Research suggests a diet high in added sugar can exacerbate fatty liver disease. Never heard of fatty liver disease? You’re not alone, but it’s actually one of the most common diseases in America, says Mark Hyman, MD, founder of the Ultra Wellness Centre and chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine.
Basically, that spike in insulin caused by sugar also drives fat into the liver cells, causing inflammation and scarring. This disease is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart attacks and even cancer.
3. It keeps your brain sharp
You may have been warned that sweets can eat away at teeth enamel, but what’s even scarier is sugar can eat away at your brain power, too. Research shows that eating too much sugar can impair cognitive function and reduce proteins that are necessary for memory and responsiveness.
In one particular study, rats who were fed sugar were slower and showed less synaptic activity in their brains than those in the control group.
“A high intake of sugar is associated with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions associated not just with decreased cognitive function, but possibly even with changes to brain structure,” Long Gillespie says.
4. You’ll be less likely to have Alzheimer’s and dementia…
A diet high in added sugar reduces the production of a chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps the brain form new memories and remember the past.
Levels of BDNF are particularly low in people with an impaired glucose metabolism (diabetics and pre-diabetics) and low BDNF has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
5. …And depression.
In one study, older adults who drank more than four servings of soda per day were 30 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with depression than people who drank unsweetened water, coffee or tea.
In order to function properly, the brain depends on a steady supply of chemicals like glucose and insulin. When glucose (another name for sugar) enters the body, insulin opens cell doors to allow it into the cells.
However, when your brain experiences continuous sugar spikes (from your breakfast cereal through to your post-dinner ice cream sandwich), insulin becomes more immune to its effects and therefore less effective. This in turn leads to depression and anxiety.
6. It will keep your skin looking young…
And now for the appeal to your vanity: A lifetime of eating too much added sugar can make skin dull and wrinkled. This is due to a process called glycation, where the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs – an appropriate name for what they do!).
AGEs damage collagen and elastin, the protein fibres that keep skin firm and elastic, and that damage leads to skin wrinkles and sagging. They also deactivate your body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving you more vulnerable to sun damage.
“In this case, you truly are what you eat – it shows on your skin,” Long Gillespie says.
7. It will lower your risk of diabetes
Research shows that drinking one to two (or more) sugary drinks a day increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes by 26 per cent. Because of the high insulin resistance caused by excess sugar intake, fructose, glucose and other forms of sugar can’t get into the cells and become “stuck” in the bloodstream.
This high blood sugar leads to pre-diabetes and eventually the threat of actual diabetes.
8. It decreases your heart attack risk
People with higher added sugar intakes had a notable increase in risk of heart attacks compared to those with lower intakes, one recent study found.
One simple swap to cut your risk: Ditch the soda. One study found that sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease.
“For every extra soda or sugary drink you consume, you may raise your risk of heart disease by up to 25 per cent,” says Darria Long Gillespie, MD, a US-based emergency physician at Emory University Hospital.
9. It can help reduce your risk of certain cancers
Though studies are not completely conclusive, some research suggests excessive added dietary sugar is correlated with higher levels of certain cancers, such as pancreatic cancer.
10. Your breath will be sweeter
We’ve heard again and again about the connection between sweet treats and dental decay and cavities. Why this happens: Sugar provides a quick food source for bacteria so they can reproduce quickly, causing plaque buildup and that awful morning breath.
11. You’ll have more energy
Studies show that added dietary sugars can decrease the activity of orexin cells. These cells are basically the Energizer Bunnies of our bodies and induce wakefulness, stoke the metabolism and keep our system movin’ and groovin’. When orexin cells are turned off or absent, we’re sleepy and sluggish, which explains why you want to nap after a carb- and sugar-laden lunch.
12. You’ll have fewer cravings
Since over-consumption of sugar triggers the production of ghrelin – the hormone that signals to your body that it’s hungry – cutting down on sweets means you won’t feel like a bottomless pit of hunger. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods, sans sweetener, to minimise that annoying “hangry” feeling and feel full for longer.