It is not surprising to discover, in these times of fast food, junk snacks and over-eating, that we as a population are consuming more sugar today than at any other time in our history. Recent dietary surveys undertaken by the USDA found that, on average, an American consumes twenty teaspoons of added sugar every day. This can have unwanted long-term effects on your health and energy levels.
20 teaspoons of sugar might seem like an incredibly large amount, but it becomes easier to visualize when you consider that one twelve ounce fizzy drink contains around ten teaspoons, a bowl of frosted cereals contains upwards of four teaspoons, and a two ounce bag of sweets contains somewhere in the range of eleven teaspoons. Incredibly, this does not even include the sugar that is found naturally in food sources such as fruit and milk.
Sugar And Your Health
Worldwide, experts have determined that our daily excess sugar consumption equates to about five hundred extra calories per day, which in basic weight gain terms is comparable to one pound a week. Unfortunately, many people are not as aware of sugar’s potential dangers as they are of items like sodium or trans fats. The reality is that very few of us eat a healthy, balanced diet. With the global sugar intake steadily increasing, here are some of the key facts that everybody should know about the potential health detriments that can arise from a diet that is so heavily sugar-based.
1. Stress on the Pancreas & Adrenal Glands
When we eat excess sugar, our pancreas and adrenal glands produce extra insulin and cortisol to handle the influx of sugar and empty calories. Over time, and especially if combined with other factors like a stressful lifestyle, the stress on these organs begins to tell. A long-term high-sugar diet can contribute to lower levels of key hormones and neurotransmitters like cortisol, aldosterone, and even the sex hormones. This leads to the classic symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue – tiredness, low energy levels, and a general lack of vitality and enthusiasm.
2. Heart Damage
We know that large amounts of sugar can increase an individual’s overall risk of heart disease, but a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Heart found evidence that sugar can also affect the vital machinations of the heart. It was found that sugar can negatively affect the pumping mechanism that is needed for the heart to effectively spread blood throughout the body. This, obviously, puts the heart at a much greater risk of failure. To put this in even sharper perspective, roughly half of people diagnosed with heart failure die within five years.
3. Liver Toxicity
A 2012 study introduced the theory that large amounts of glucose and fructose can have a toxic effect on the liver that is comparable to the damage that can be done by alcohol. A similarity was found in the metabolic pathways that sugar and alcohol both take, leading to equivalent degrees of toxic damage in the liver. We must also not be fooled in to assuming that a slim figure means that your sugar intake is not affecting your health detrimentally, as a further study in 2013 provided evidence to argue that fructose and glucose induced liver damage could occur even without the presence of excess calories or noticeable weight gain.
Research shows that the rate of obesity amongst adolescents has tripled in the last thirty years, with childhood obesity doubling in the same time frame. The stereotypical image that one conjures when thinking of an obese person is the classic, large, round stomach, and sugar may be more responsible for this particular enlarged body part than people might realize. A research project in 2010 determined that the increasingly wide spread intake of high fructose soft beverages was causing the maturation of visceral fat cells, leading to the formation of large, fatty stomach areas in those individuals who were gaining weight through large sugar consumption. This, of course, sets the stage for further complications including diabetes and heart disease, as well as putting considerable stress on all areas of the body.
5. Brain Power
It seems that sugar not only can affect your physical well being, but also impacts your brain health. A study conducted in 2009 found a relationship between the amount of glucose that you consume and the speed at which your brain cells age. Sugar has also been linked in a 2012 study to notable deficiencies in cognitive health and strength of memory.
Though you may be very conscious of your daily sugar intake, there are several foods on the market that you may not be aware are so high in sugar content. Everybody knows that sweet goods such as cake and candy are to be consumed in moderation, but people may not be aware of that fact that foods such as tomato sauce, tonic water, bread and even fat free dressing are all guilty of being ‘hidden sugar’ products. It is really worth doing your homework on the weekly shop to make sure you are purchasing the very best and healthiest options for you or your family, it really can make a difference. Reading ingredient labels carefully is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Hopefully this article has helped to educate you a little bit more on the ways in which excess sugar can be harmful. Moderation and knowing the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sugars is the key. It is important to remember that the naturally occurring sugars in foods such as fruit and milk do not pose nearly as much of a negative health effect as fructose and glucose.
Today we eat more added sugar than ever before, and the connection to chronic diseases and illnesses like Adrenal Fatigue now seems clear. Remember that added sugar is a stressor for your body, just like work stress or emotional stress, and is equally likely to lead to long-term health problems. Switching to a low-sugar, high-nutrition diet is one of the very best things you can do for your health.