Everyone knows about the dangers of sugar consumption, but most people don’t realize just how much sugar they are ingesting in their diets or just how detrimental excess sugar can be to their health. Originally, sucrose (table sugar) was targeted as the main culprit in damaging our bodies, but it is now known that the other forms of sugar, such as fructose (sugar found in fruits) can be detrimental when ingested in large amounts.
A simple stroll through your local grocery store will reveal that sugar is prevalent in nearly all food items. It is no coincidence that obesity rates are souring in the United States, with the average American consuming approximately 115 lbs of sugar every year.
Sugar has NO nutritional value
Sucrose is the most common sugar found in our diets. It is produced from sugar cane or sugar beets through a refining process that strips out all of its vitamins, minerals, protein, enzymes, and other nutrients. Since sucrose is devoid of all nutrition, our bodies must ‘borrow’ the missing vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from our own tissues in order for it to be metabolized. The effects of sugar on our health are therefore the siphoning away of vital nutrients from other parts of our body.
Sugar leaches away the calcium from within our teeth causing tooth decay. It also plays a major role in heart disease since it depletes the body of potassium and magnesium, which are required for cardiac function.
While sugar is devoid of nutrients, it is very high in calories. A teaspoon of sugar (4g) contains 15 calories. This may not seem like a lot, but consider that a two ounce candy bar, a 12 ounce soda, and a one-cup serving of ice cream typically contain 10 or more teaspoons of sugar. The USDA estimates that the average American consumes about 20 teaspoons of sugar a day, which is equivalent to 16 percent of our recommended total calorie intake.
Sugar is Addictive
Ever have sugar cravings? A term that most people wouldn’t associate with anything meaningful actually reveals one of the true dangers of sugar. Sugar has addictive properties that can be compared to nicotine or heroin, just with different degrees of addiction.
The effects of sugar on health occurs because sugar interacts with your brain causing it to release opioid, which give the body a feeling of pleasure. Research has determined that certain areas of the brain are activated when you have a sugar craving. These areas of the brain are also activated when a person has a crazing for drugs. This research gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘comfort food’.
Sugar withdrawals are also very similar to drug withdrawals. One will experience fatigue, lassitude, depression, moodiness, headaches, and aching limbs.
For most of us, our exposure to sugar occurs at a very young age. Breast milk from our mothers and baby formulas both contain sugar. Also many of the foods we typically eat on a daily basis contain certain amounts of sugar. Cereal is a good example of this.
Sugar has also been linked to violent behaviour, hypertension, and learning impediments. In 1991 Singapore banned sugary soft drink sales in schools and youth centers, citing the danger of sugar addiction to the mental and physical health of children. Some studies have also shown that removing sugar from the diets of prisoners reduced the amount of chronic violence in prisons.
Sugar Dampens the Immune System
Eating that cinnamon roll can do more to your body than add a few extra pounds. Another danger of sugar is the compromising of your immune system by destroying the germ-killing ability of white blood cells for up to five hours after ingestion. It also reduces the production of antibodies in your body.
It also interferes with the transport of Vitamin C and causes mineral imbalance, both of which weaken the immune system. It also reduces the efficiency of omega-3 fatty acid, making the cells more permeable and less capable of stopping invasion by allergens and microorganisms.
As you consume more sugar, your blood sugar level rises. This triggers your pancreas into producing insulin to help clean your cells of this excess sugar. As your blood sugar levels return to normal, so does the amount of insulin in your body. However, when you eat a lot of sugar it takes more and more insulin to normalize your blood sugar levels. This over time may cause the pancreas to stop responding to the sugar and halt insulin production all together. This is known as type 1 diabetes.
Insulin also has the side effect of suppressing the release of human growth hormone in the pituitary gland. Growth hormone is a primary regulator of the immune system. A lack of growth hormone will result in a compromised immune system.
So should you completely cut all sugar from your diet? For people who are not overweight or do not have other risk factors for heart disease or diabetes, such a thing isn’t entirely necessary. The occasional sugary snack isn’t going to result in immune system collapse or heart failure. The one thing you should take away from this article is ‘moderation’. One cookie every now and then is fine, but that extra large soda you get from your favorite fast food restaurant won’t do your body any favors. So how much is considered appropriate? The World Health Organization recommends that you should keep your sugar intake to no more than 10% of your total calories, or 50g of sugar for most people. Anymore than that and the effects of sugar on your health will start to compound and may get out of control. Just remember, ‘moderation’!
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