We hear all the time that eating too much sugar is bad, but most people aren't aware of the reasons that it's not good to load up on the sweets — and it has to do with more aspects of your health than you might think. There are a number of alarming things that can happen when you eat too much sugar, and knowing what these negative effects are might motivate you to kick your sugar addiction once and for all. You might be surprised to find how many aspects of your health improve when you cut down on sweets.
"The main reason we all want to cut back on sugar consumption is because it is simply a nutrient-free addictive substance — when eaten from sources other than fruits and vegetables — that is now causing more preventable disease than cigarettes and alcohol and all other drugs combined," says nutritionist Erin Akey KNS, FNC over email. "There is just no nutritional value in eating sugar, and the damage done by sugar to many different systems of the body is overwhelming."
If you're not sure if you're consuming too much sugar, consider these guidelines: The World Health Organization recommends eating less than 25 grams of sugar (6 teaspoons) for optimal health benefits. To put this into perspective, a typical can of soda contains about 38 grams of sugar. Pretty scary to think about how much sugar you're likely consuming, right?
Although we all love a good dessert here and there, you want to make sure you don't go overboard for the sake of your health. Here are nine scary and gross things that can happen when you eat too much sugar.
1. Mood & Anxiety Issues
People who consume high levels of sugar are more likely to develop depression or anxiety compared to those with low-sugar diets, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, as well as other similar research. "Eighty to 90 percent of your serotonin is produced in the gut to be used by the brain," says Akey. "When we eat sugar in excess, it leads to a reduction in serotonin, which leads to moodiness and anxiety, among other things."
2. Yeast Infections
Ladies, sugar can even wreak havoc on your sexual health. "One of the most common things many women face at some point in their lives is the dreaded yeast infection," says Akey. "Sugar feeds candida, and a candida overgrowth will result in more frequent yeast infections."
3. Brain Fog
Sugar consumption causes blood sugar levels to spike and fall, which leads to brain fog and that lethargic feeling we sometimes get in the afternoons after a starchy or sugar-filled lunch. "This can also lead to fatigue and is a big reason why Alzheimer's patients are often placed on sugar-restricted diets," says Akey. "Many times I will have a client who sees a huge difference in performance at work or school and way less brain fog when we drastically reduce the sugar and processed carbs in their daily diets."
4. Fatty Liver Disease
"Fructose is very difficult to process in the liver and is used to make fat," says Akey. "This can lead to fatty liver disease and in many cases can be more harmful than alcohol longterm. The amount of sugar consumed in America is the number one reason why so many people who do not drink alcohol, or drink very little, still are diagnosed with fatty liver disease. This occurs in people who are at a very normal healthy weight, which is even scarier."
5. High Cholesterol
Time to worry less about eggs and shrimp and think more about sugar, which is a true culprit of increased levels of bad cholesterol. "When the body is inflamed, cholesterol is secreted as a sort of bandaid for the blood vessels," says Akey. "As explained earlier, sugar is the leading cause of inflammation. "Science is finally seeing the connection between sugar and cholesterol, and the research proving this connection is mounting daily."
Sugar is the leading cause of inflammation in the body, which can trigger chronic diseases and lead to aches and pains. "High levels of insulin secreted when we eat the sugar leads to a crash in blood glucose levels, which sets off inflammation in the joints and blood vessels," says Akey. "For patients with diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, reducing sugar can reduce pain."
7. Leaky Gut
Sugar changes the gut microbiota in a way that increases intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut symptoms, which include conditions such as allergies, eczema and psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. "Added sugar feeds yeast and bad bacteria that can damage the intestinal wall, creating a leaky gut," says Dr. Josh Axe over email. "This means the chronic, low-grade inflammation that sugar triggers can lead to the transfer of substances from the gut into the bloodstream."
8. Tooth Decay
Your dentist was right when they told you to stop eating all that candy and drinking so much soda. "It’s true that too much sugar can cause you to make a lot of trips to the dentist office," says Axe. "What you eat greatly affects your mouth — teeth and gums included. Too much sugar can cause bacterial growth, resulting in decay and infections of surrounding tissues and bone."
Chronic sugar spikes is linked to type II diabetes, and one possible place diabetes strikes is the eyes. The most common vision loss culprit when it comes to diabetes is diabeteic retinopathy, a condition characterized by retinal blood vessel damage that can trigger bleeding or fluid leakage in the eye. "This can lead to blurry, distorted vision, including floaters," says Axe. "When chronic high blood sugar is left untreated, diabetic retinopathy moves into a more advanced stage that involves abnormal blood vessels forming on the surface of the retina, and permanent damage could occur."