It’s no secret that sugar’s addictive taste has us craving foods we know we shouldn’t be eating. We often think that at the end of a long day we deserve a little treat or that it’s okay to indulge on special occasions. However, there is no sugar coating the numerous negative health issues that sugar plays a leading role in. Below are only 10 of the countless ways sugar is ruining your life.
1. | Alzheimer’s Disease
It is commonly known that Alzheimer’s is a disease that progressively destroys memory and other mental functions; however, it is less known that science is proving Alzheimer’s to be Type 3 Diabetes. The more sugar you consume, the more insulin-resistant you become. When your brain cells become insulin-resistant, you begin to experience symptoms of Alzheimer’s as you lose memory, become disoriented, and lose aspects of your personality.1 In Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed, Dr. Suzanne de la Monte and Dr. Jack Wands explain that “while aging is clearly the strongest risk factor for [Alzheimer’s Disease], emerging data suggest that [Type 2 Diabetes] and dyslipidemic states can contribute substantially to the pathogenesis of [Alzheimer’s] either directly or as cofactors.”2 Avoiding sugar in your diet will not only prevent diabetes, but ultimately save your brain.
2. | Cancer
When portioned in small amounts, sugar can fit into a balanced diet. Being that the suggested maximum serving size for women is 6 teaspoons per day and the suggested maximum serving size for men is 9 teaspoons per day3, people are unknowingly overdosing on sugar and negatively affecting their health on a daily basis. Sugars in diet and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study explains that after studying participants aged 50-71 for 7.2 years, they “observed a strong positive association between intake of added sugars and risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma… more than 2-fold increase in risk for small intestine cancer…[and] a particularly strong risk of pleural cancer for all investigated sugars.”4 Similarly, a study named Increased sugar uptake promotes oncogenesis via EPAC/RAP1 and O-GlcNAc pathways, recognizes “sugar, not only as fuel source for an already existing cancer, but as a primary driver in oncogenesis [and] one of the primary causes of metabolic cell changes in the body consistent with the initiation and promotion of cancer. The research indicates that removing it from the diet, and depriving the cells of it, could reverse cancer.”5
In specific, emerging research is showing that high sugar diets are effecting breast cancer. A recent study by the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center used mice to study sugar’s impact on breast cancer. The study, Sugars in Western diets increase risk for breast cancer tumors and metastasis, determined “that it was specifically fructose, in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, ubiquitous within our food system, which was responsible for facilitating12-HETE production in breast tumors.”6 Not only is sugar detrimental to the growth of cells, removing it from your diet could be the difference between battling and avoiding cancer.
3. | Premature Aging
Avoiding sugar is beneficial not only for a healthy brain and fighting cancer, but also your skin. Collagen and elastin, the protein strands that keep skin firm and supple, are negatively affected by a high sugar diet. Glycation, the process of sugar in your bloodstream attaching to and destroying proteins, “transforms type III collagen, the strongest and most stable, into type I, which is more fragile.”7 Increasing sugar in your diet speeds up the glycation process, thus making you prone to developing wrinkles and prematurely age. Balancing the amount of sugar you intake is beneficial for your body inside and out, and avoiding excess sugars is worth yielding beautiful, youthful skin.
4. | PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
Women with PCOS have higher insulin levels which cause an increased chance in developing diabetes. Angela Grassi, founder of PCOS Nutrition Center, explains how sugar causes a vicious cycle in the health of women with PCOS. She writes, “[Insulin] makes you crave carbs. Once you eat those carbs, it increases your blood sugar resulting in more insulin needed to be secreted. Too much insulin causes weight gain, making you more insulin resistant.”8 In a recent study, 11 women diagnosed with PCOS were put on a low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to monitor how reducing sugar affected symptoms of PCOS. The study, The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: A pilot study, found that a low carb diet “led to significant improvement in weight, percent free testosterone, LH/FSH ratio, and fasting insulin in women with obesity and PCOS.”9 Reducing sugar intake is not only detrimental in keeping insulin at healthy level, it is important in reducing the symptoms and issues of PCOS.
5. | Candida
Candida, a type of yeasts, naturally occurs in the gut flora, and mainly becomes an issue when an overgrowth is present. Candida overgrowth causes skin and nail fungal infections, exhaustion, digestive issues, autoimmune diseases, depression and so much more.10 Since yeasts feed on sugar, it’s no surprise that sugar is the largest cause of candida overgrowth. The Candida Diet, a website devoted to informing about and preventing candida overgrowth, clarifies that “a healthy immune system should be able to keep Candida at bay. However, a diet rich in sugar actually depresses your immune system, leaving it vulnerable and allowing the Candida yeast to proliferate.”11 Maintaining a high fiber, reduced sugar diet restores the micro-ecological system in your gut and allows you to not only prevent the risk of developing numerous diseases, but feel healthy as well.
6. | Heart Disease
Insulin resistance is linked to the development of a lethal kind of bad cholesterol-small, dense LDLs-that sets the stage for heart disease. In The Sugar Solution, a book dedicated to educating people on the effects of sugar, Sari Harrar writes, “[High-normal blood sugar] can double your risk of heart disease, nearly triple your risk of high blood pressure, and make you up to four times more likely to die from a heart attack.”12 After studying excessive sugar consumption and mortality rates of people with cardiovascular diseases, Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults observed “a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for CVD mortality.”13 Various studies and research continue to prove that sugar, especially when eaten in excess, is ultimately bad for your heart.
7. | Metabolic Disorders
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that increase a person’s chances of suffering from cardiovascular disease, stroke or diabetes in the future. Metabolic syndrome is best treated with a diet high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates-especially low in sugars. A recent study, Sickness behavior is accentuated in rats with metabolic disorders induced by a fructose diet, investigated responses of animals with fructose-induced metabolic disorders. The study found that “compared with the control group, the fructose diet induced dyslipidemia and significantly higher plasma total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglyceride, and glucose levels.”14 The increase in fructose consumption has paralleled the rise in metabolic syndrome, and balancing a diet low in unnecessary sugars prevents the risk of developing metabolic disorders.
8. | Arthritis
People who suffer from arthritis are encouraged to eat real food and avoid processed foods with extra sugar. In particular, sugar-sweetened soda consumption is known for negatively effecting health in multiple ways. Because it was unclear whether soda had a negative impact on arthritis, a study, Sugar-sweetened soda consumption and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women, decided to investigate sugars impact on arthritis and its symptoms. It found that “women who consumed [more than one] serving of sugar-sweetened soda per day had a 63% increased risk of developing seropositive [rheumatoid arthritis] compared with those who consumed no sugar-sweetened soda or who consumed [less than one] per month.”15 Refined sugars, especially when eaten in excess, increase inflammation. Not only does this worsen symptoms for people already suffering from arthritis, but increases the risk of developing arthritis later in life.
9. | Macular Degeneration
Research shows that lowering sugar, even when diabetes is not a present factor in one’s health, reduces the risk of developing macular degeneration. A published study, Association between dietary glycemic index and age-related macular degeneration in nondiabetic participants in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, obtained dietary information from 4099 participants and evaluated how the dietary glycemic index affected the risk/severity of macular degeneration. “The association between [dietary glycemic index] and [aged macular degeneration] from the AREDS cross-sectional analysis at baseline suggests that a reduction in the [dietary glycemic index], a modifiable risk factor, may provide a means of diminishing the risk of [macular degeneration].”16 Sticking to low glycemic foods and maintaining a reduced sugar diet reduces inflammation crucial to macular degeneration.
10. | Gallbladder Stones
Sugar and fat are the two dietary items most suspected of causing gall stones. Leading research proves that sugar consumption not only worsens the symptoms associated with gall stones, but may also cause it as well. After observing weight, alcohol intake and diet, a controlled study, The Sweet Road to Gall Stones, reported “impressive evidence to incriminate refined (in the sense of fibre depleted) sugar and total intake of sugar, which includes natural sugar in fruit and vegetables but consists mainly of refined sugar in most people’s diet.”17 Although there is no guaranteed way of preventing gall stones, keeping a high fiber, low sugar diet will prevent the risk gall stones and allow your gallbladder to function as it should.
Razi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.
- Mark Bittman, 2012. Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes? http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/bittman-is-alzheimers-type-3-diabetes/?_r=0
- Suzanne M. de la Monte, M.D., M.P.H. and Jack R. Wands, M.D., 2008. Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769828/
- Adelina Espat, 2015. Does Sugar Love Cancer? https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/may-2015/FOH-cancer-love-sugar.html
- Nataša Tasevska, Li Jiao, Amanda J. Cross, Victor Kipnis, Amy F. Subar, Albert Hollenbeck, Arthur Schatzkin, and Nancy Potischman, 2012. Sugars in diet and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3494407/
- Sayer Ji, 2014. Research Reveals How Sugar Causes Cancer. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/research-reveals-how-sugar-causes-cancer
- University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 2016. Sugars in Western diets increase risk for breast cancer tumors and metastasis: Study in mice points to sugar’s impact on inflammatory pathways as culprit. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160104080034.htm
- Karyn Repinski, 2011. Face Facts About Sugar. http://www.prevention.com/beauty/natural-beauty/how-sugar-ages-your-skin
- Angela Grassi, 2016. Taking Control Over Sugar When You Have PCOS. http://www.pcosnutrition.com/2016/02/02/sugar/
- John C Mavropoulos, William S Yancy, Juanita Hepburn, and Eric C Westman, 2005. The effects of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on the polycystic ovary syndrome: A pilot study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1334192/
- Dr. Amy Myers, 2013. 10 Signs You Have a Candida Overgrowth and What to do About It. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8376/10-signs-you-have-candida-overgrowth-what-to-do-about-it.html
- Sari Harrar, 2004. The Sugar Solution: Balance Your Blood Sugar Naturally to Avoid Disease, Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Feel Great.
- Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB, 2014. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24493081
- Orlandi L, Fonseca WF, Enes-Marques S, Paffaro VA Jr, Vilela FC, Giusti-Paiva A, 2015. Sickness behavior is accentuated in rats with metabolic disorders induced by a fructose diet. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26616874
- Hu Y, Costenbader KH, Gao X, Al-Daabil M, Sparks JA, Solomon DH, Hu FB, Karlson EW, Lu B, 2014. Sugar-sweetened soda consumption and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25030783
- Chung-Jung Chiu, Roy C Milton, Gary Gensler, and Allen Taylor, 2007. Association between dietary glycemic index and age-related macular degeneration in nondiabetic participants in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/1/180.long
- K W Heaton, 1984. The sweet road to gall stones. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1441393/