Sugar, like many other things in life, is not necessary a bad thing. In fact, we need sugar. We consume carbohydrates that our body breaks down into sugar, which then provides us with the necessary energy that fuels our everyday bodily processes. Without sugar, we would not survive.
Over consumption of sugar, however, is the problem. In the last year, studies have shown that the average American’s consumption of sugar can now be pegged at ten to eleven tablespoons per day—a considerable jump from when the average consumption of sugar in the 17th century was four pounds annually.
Taking in too much sugar spells bad news for our bodies; we were not built to absorb large amounts of sugar without sustaining significant effects.The maximum amount of sugar that the body can handle (without negative effects) is two tablespoons daily.
This is not limited to just the obviously sweet stuff; today, we consume sugar mainly through processed food, which contains high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS. Several food processing companies prefer using HFCS to regular table sugar because the former is sweeter and more affordable, thereby a more cost-effective option in the long-term.
HFCS is much more dangerous than regular sugar; studies show that fructose consumption can actually increase the risk of cancer development, as cancer cells proliferate more readily in the presence of fructose. When the body metabolizes HFCS, especially, the effects are more drastic, as opposed to when the body processes normal table sugar.
While sugar is good in moderate amounts, overconsumption can result in the following effects on the human body:
Potential For Liver Damage
The liver detoxifies chemicals in the human body, and does the same for large amounts of sugar. When it processes high levels of fructose in the blood regularly, this takes a severe toll on the liver and can lead to liver damage over time. While this happens over several years, the liver is a sensitive bodily organ, and it is not worth risking causing irreversible damage if left untreated.
Weight Gain And Irregular Metabolic Function
Insulin is a hormone that is secreted by the pancreas, and serves as the body’s way of regulating its sugar levels. Too much sugar intake can result in the development of insulin resistance, where the pancreas fail to stimulate insulin, leaving the sugar in your body to go unprocessed. This sets off a chain of events that tricks your body into thinking it is not receiving enough nutrition, an you to feel hungry and eat more.
This snowballs into more serious effects, such as metabolic dysfunction. One of the ways this condition manifests is the development of classic metabolic syndrome, which includes symptoms like high blood sugar, obesity, decreased (low-density lipoprotein) LDL and increased (high-density lipoprotein) HDL, andhigher levels of triglycerides. Classic metabolic syndrome is treatable, but if left unchecked has the potential to develop into serious conditions like coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Increased Uric Acid Levels
The body produces normal amounts of uric acid in response to the breakdown of nitrogen in your system. An increase in sugar intake results in the body’s uric acid levels climbing high enough to potentially develop into kidney and heart disease, especially if sustained over long periods of time. The correlation between uric acid levels and fructose intake is especially strong; if the body’s uric acid level rises above normal, it is often an indicator of a risk for type 2 diabetes.
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Also known as NAFLD, non-alcohol fatty liver disease is a condition that gives you all the effects of excessive alcohol intake, minus the alcohol consumption (and possibly the accompanying fun stuff). The body processes sugar the same way as it does alcohol, and an excess in the former results in insulin resistance and abnormal amounts of fat in the blood. In addition, a constant over-intake of sugar can cause the brain to develop dependence on sugar, very similar to what happens when one becomes eventually “hooked” on alcohol over time.
Type 2 Diabetes
Possibly the most well-known effect of excess sugar intake is the development of type 2 diabetes. Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is hereditary, type 2 is acquired over time and cannot be reversed. Also known as diabetes mellitus type 2, this is a metabolic condition that is marked by constant high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. The body no longer processes sugar in the same way (brought about by the insulin resistance and lack of insulin), which is why people with type 2 diabetes generally undergo significant weight loss, frequent urination, and increased thirst and hunger. Once acquired, type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition.
Moderation is key. A change in one’s dietary restrictions may be all it takes to prevent many of these conditions from developing. Switching from drinking sweetened drinks to water, for example, can make a significant difference in reducing how much sugar your body processes each day.