Sugar is one of the most ubiquitous substances around – we put it in our coffee, sprinkle it on our cereal and bake it into our favourite desserts. But the havoc sugar wreaks on your hormones is anything but sweet. Here are three disturbing ways sugar can wreak havoc on our hormones.
Sugar makes our mood hormones go haywire
Sugar consumption can affect our mood and hormones in several ways, including through its impact on the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that plays a critical role in our brain's reward and pleasure centres. When we experience something pleasurable or rewarding, such as eating sugary foods, dopamine is released, and we feel a sense of pleasure or satisfaction. But it's short lived! Research suggests that consuming too much sugar can lead to a dopamine crash, leaving us tired, irritable, and depressed. This is because excessive sugar consumption can cause a rapid increase in dopamine levels, followed by a sharp drop. This rollercoaster effect can cause mood swings and make it difficult to regulate our emotions. Excess sugar consumption can also affect other hormones that play a role in regulating our mood, such as insulin and cortisol. For instance, consuming large amounts of sugar can lead to a spike in insulin levels, which can cause a drop in blood sugar levels and lead to feelings of fatigue, irritability and anxiety.
Sugar can affect insulin production
Insulin is a hormone that regulates our blood sugar levels. When we eat too much sugar, our bodies produce too much insulin to try and keep up. This can lead to insulin resistance, which means our bodies stop responding to insulin the way they should. Over time, prolonged insulin resistance can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition characterised by elevated blood sugar levels and impaired insulin function. Type 2 diabetes can have serious health consequences if not properly managed, including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage and more. Weight gain and difficulty losing weight is another consequence insulin resistance has been associated with, as insulin plays a role in regulating metabolism and fat storage in the body. Insulin resistance can disrupt this balance, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
Sugar messes with our hunger hormones
Have you ever eaten a sugary snack and then felt hungry again shortly afterward? That's because sugar messes with our hunger hormones. When we eat sugar, our bodies produce a hormone called leptin that tells us we're full. But when we eat too much sugar, our bodies start producing less leptin, which can make us feel hungry all the time. Ghrelin is a hormone that is released by the stomach and stimulates appetite – to put it simply, when we haven't eaten for a while, ghrelin levels increase, which signals to the brain that it's time to get munching. So it's so surprise that too much sugar can also mess with ghrelin levels, leading to increased hunger and overeating, raising our risk for obesity.
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