It’s no secret that the consumption of sugar has greatly increased over the past 100 years. In the 1900s, the average American consumed around 5 pounds of sugar a year. Today, it’s more than 150 pounds. In fact, the consumption of sugar is growing faster than the world’s population (or about 1% per year)! All this sugar is expanding our waistlines for sure, but there are more reasons than weight gain to resist the sweet stuff.
- Sugar can trigger heart attack. Numerous studies suggest that sugar causes the liver to produce more uric acid, which can lead to high blood pressure, thus increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Sugar zaps your energy. When we eat, the pancreas produces insulin (a hormone) to take the sugar from food out of the bloodstream and into the cells for energy. When what we eat is full of sugar, the body dumps a large amount of insulin into the blood. This provides a surge of energy followed by an extreme drop. A recent study found that sugar blocks orexins, a type of brain cell responsible for feelings of wakefulness (which also is involved in telling the body to burn calories). This may explain why after a meal high in carbohydrates (which break down to sugar quickly) we feel sleepy.
- Sugar may cause dementia. Some evidence suggests that continuously high blood sugar levels might lead to aging of the brain that is associated with dementia. In a study published in the journal Neurology, researchers took brain scans of 249 people ages 60-64 with blood sugar levels in the normal range. After four years, those whose blood sugar levels were at the highest end of the normal range were more likely to have shrinkage in the hippocampus and the amygdala — areas of the brain associated with memory and cognitive function.
- Sugar may make you look older. When sugar is broken down in the body, it slows the production of collagen and elastin, which benefit skin and promote a youthful appearance. A study by the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands measured the blood sugar levels of 600 men and women ages 50-70 and showed their photos to a group of 60 independent assessors. The people who had a high level of glucose in their blood were consistently rated as looking older.
- Sugar may be more addictive than cocaine. According to a 2007 study refined sugar is far more addictive than cocaine — one of the most addictive and harmful substances known. An astonishing 94 percent of rats who were allowed to choose between sugar water and cocaine, chose sugar. Even rats who were addicted to cocaine switched their preference once offered sugar as a choice. The rats were also more willing to work for sugar than cocaine. The researchers speculate that the sweet receptors (two protein receptors on the tongue) have not adapted to the high-sugar consumption of people today.
This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be an exhaustive examination of the subject matter nor a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your primary care physician or healthcare provider before beginning any diet or exercise program.