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11 ways sugar messes with your health

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The effects of sugar on the body may not always be instant and visible. Below is a bunch of ways sugar wreaks havoc on our insides. Prepare to become just a little concerned…

  • 1. Sugar is addictive. 

Moderation is key, right? Impossible in the case of sugar. Two major studies have shown sugar to be as addictive as cocaine. Can you eat just one Tim Tam ? Animal studies have shown fructose causes the four criteria of addiction: binging, withdrawal, craving and sensitisation to other addictive substances (meaning after chronic exposure to sugar, it’s easier to get hooked on other drugs). For the science on all this, click here or here.

  • 2. Sugar feeds cancer.

Sugar has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, lung, gallbladder, and stomach. For the science go here.

  • 3. Sugar suppresses your immune system.

It weakens your defences against viruses and infectious disease by inhibiting the action of white blood cells so they are unable to “fight” against foreign invaders. Sugar also messes with the balance of your gut flora, which modulates your immune health and overall wellbeing.

  • 4. Sugar contributes to the development and progression of diabetes.

New research is suggesting it is linked to Dementia and Alzeimers disease, which is being dubbed “Type 3 Diabetes”. Often touted as “safer” for diabetics as it does not raise insulin levels as much as glucose, fructose actually reduces the ability of insulin to do its job of getting glucose into the cell, where it is needed. This is termed “insulin resistance” and is a key marker of diabetes. If glucose is left hanging around in the blood, all sorts of problems can occur. This is called “hyperglycaemia” (high blood sugar) and long term can cause damage to kidneys, nerves, heart, eyes and feet.

  • 5. Sugar elevates inflammation in the body.

And inflammation is now widely acknowledged as being at the root of all disease. Click here and here for the evidence.

  • 6. Sugar leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity AKA “beer belly”.

We may joke about the beer belly in our society, but this kind of fat is the most dangerous and is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. While glucose is recognised and compensated for by the hormone insulin (an appetite-control hormone) fructose is not. Fructose is metabolised in the liver to “palmitic acid” which then can travel to the brain and suppress leptin activity. Leptin is your satiety hormone which says “I’m full” when you have eaten an appropriate amount of food. No leptin – no satiety, which is why you can gorge yourself so much on fructose-rich foods. Check out the research here, here and here.

  • 7. Sugar contributes to behavioural problems in kids.

Sugar can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline, leaving children unable to focus, hyperactive, exhausted and grumpy.

  • 8. Sugar increases the acidity of your body.

Sugar can result in an acidic digestive tract, indigestion and malabsorption, resulting in us being over-fed, yet undernourished.

  • 9. Sugar upsets the mineral balance in your body.

Causing chromium and copper deficiencies and interfering with absorption of calcium, iron and magnesium. Copper is required for the formation of collagen and elastin. Collagen and elastin hold the body together. No collagen and elastin = mushy, malfunctioning body. Copper deficiency can also lead to bone weakness, anaemia, bone and artery defects and infertility. By interfering with the heart’s use of magnesium, copper and chromium, along with increasing triglycerides in the blood, fructose can increase the risk of irregular heart function and heart attacks.

  • 10. Sugar speeds up the ageing process.

And encourages wrinkles! Sugar consumption produces “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs) – free radicals that promote oxidative damage and break down collagen (necessary for skin elasticity and suppleness) leading to more wrinkles younger. Read the research here and here.

  • 11. Sugar causes mood swings. 

The ingestion of sugar has been known to lead to a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness.

For the full list of 141 (and counting) ways sugar messes with your health take a look at American nutritionist Nancy Appleton’s website here.

And for more of the science behind these findings go here.

Just wondering, which of these really worries you right now?

Please be respectful of other participants in the conversation. We'd love you to keep your comments respectful, friendly and relevant. Differences of opinion are welcome, but trolling and abuse of other commentators and the IQS editorial team is not and will result in blacklisting.

  • Debbie

    Love this comprehensive list, but you have mentioned ovaries twice in item 2.

    • IQS_Team

      Thanks for pointing that out Debbie! All fixed.

  • Bluecoi

    Everything on this list concerns me. My sugar consumption is too high at the moment. It is so addictive, I struggle/make excuses and continue finding myself looking at the bottom of a nuttella jar promising it will never happen again. All it takes is one week…. Why is that so hard?

  • josie

    Worrying to me is my addictive attatchment to sugar.Also that i am speedily passing this on to my children. this year I have decided to try out various dietary ideas.started the year on juice fast.did one cycle of a popular internet programme,I’m thinking the next two will be the two /five business that’s going round then this.Great to see this up and running,even if that list gave me the absolute horrors!

    • IQS_Team

      Hey Josie,
      This list is scary, but it’s also a great catalyst for making the right choice for a healthier future for you and your kids. We don’t like to think that quitting sugar is another “fad” diet, rather it’s an achievable lifestyle change. Josie, why don’t you try our online 8-Week Program? We can help you deal with the cravings and addictions and get you off sugar for good.

  • Leanne

    I knew of some of the things on the list but certainly not all of them, but yes, they all concern me. I wish I was made aware of this a lot earlier in life. I am so looking forward to being able to say “I quit sugar”.

  • Mandy

    Cancer, immune system and inflammation! I have been trying to work through a hamstring hip injury forever – they’ve wanted to give me steroid injections into my hip joint. I have followed your program for 7 weeks now and am feeling so much better, it took a while but just last week I had more energy then I’ve had in a long time. Loving that! Sugar saps you of a life you could be living.

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