Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. It can have harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to all sorts of diseases. The evidence is mounting that sugar, not fat, may be one of the leading drivers of heart disease via the harmful effects of fructose on metabolism.
Studies show that large amounts of fructose can raise triglycerides, raise blood glucose and insulin levels and increase abdominal obesity, in as little as 10 weeks. Here are some more reasons why added sugar is a bad idea.
Added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) contain calories with no essential nutrients. They are called “empty” calories. There are no proteins, essential vitamins or minerals in sugar, just pure energy. When people eat up to 10-20 percent of calories as sugar, this can become a major problem and contribute to nutrient deficiencies.
Sugar is also very bad for the teeth, because it provides easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth. It also causes tooth decay by feeding the harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Overloads the liver
Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract; it is broken down into glucose and fructose. Glucose is found in every living cell. If not obtained from the diet, the body produces it.
But the body does not produce fructose in any significant amount and there is no physiological need for it. It can only be broken down by the liver in any significant amount.
This is not a problem if a little is ingested (such as from fruit) or after an exercise session. In this case, the fructose will be turned into glycogen and stored in the liver. Eating a lot of fructose overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat. When repeatedly eating large amounts of sugar, this process can lead to fatty liver and all sorts of serious problems.
When fructose gets turned into fat in the liver, it is converted into cholesterol, and some of the fat gets lodged in the liver. This can lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease—a growing problem in Western countries that is strongly associated with metabolic diseases.
Many studies show that sugar consumption is associated with insulin resistance, especially when it is consumed in large amounts. Insulin is an important hormone in the body that allows glucose to enter cells from the bloodstream and tells the cells to start burning glucose instead of fat.
Having too much glucose in the blood is highly toxic and one of the reasons for complications of diabetes, like blindness. One feature of the metabolic dysfunction that is caused by the Western diet, is that insulin stops working as it should. The cells become “resistant” to it.
This is a leading driver of many diseases… including metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease and especially type 2 diabetes. When people eat a lot of sugar, it can cause resistance to the hormone insulin, which can contribute to many diseases.
Type 2 diabetes
Given that sugar can cause insulin resistance, it is not surprising to see that people who drink sugar—sweetened beverages have up to an 83 percent higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. Because of the harmful effects of sugar on the function of insulin, it is a leading driver of type II diabetes.
There is considerable evidence that sugar, due to its harmful effects on metabolism, can contribute to cancer. Multiple studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar are at a much higher risk of getting cancer. Insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth.
For this reason, many scientists believe that having constantly elevated insulin levels can contribute to cancer. The metabolic problems associated with sugar consumption are a known driver of inflammation, another potential cause of cancer.
Sugar can be addictive for a lot of people. Like abusive drugs, sugar causes a release of dopamine in the reward centre of the brain. The problem with sugar and many junk foods is that they can cause massive dopamine release, much more than from foods found in nature. For this reason, people who have a susceptibility to addiction can become strongly addicted to sugar and other junk foods.
One of the most important things to do if you need to lose weight is to significantly cut back on sugar consumption. The way sugar affects hormones and the brain is a recipe for fat gain disaster. It leads to decreased satiety, and can get people addicted so that they lose control over their consumption. Not surprisingly, people who consume the most sugar are by far the most likely to become overweight or obese. This applies to all age groups.