You probably know what sugar can do to your waistline, not to mention its effects on your mood and energy levels, but you might not be aware of the insidious effects it’s having on your hormones – and what this means for your whole body.
In Australia we’re clocking in at a whopping 17 teaspoons of sugar a day, and that’s well over the 6 to 9 teaspoon limits for men and women, respectively. But is it any surprise when you see how accessible highly-processed foods are? Supermarkets look a lot different today than they did just a few decades ago – it was in the 1970s when we started to see a shift to more palatable snacks lining the shelves.
It’s no wonder then that we also saw a sharp incline in obesity cases in the years that followed – between 1980 and 2013 alone we saw a rise from a global obesity rate of 28.8% to 36.9%. It’s not just adults, children are included in these growing rates too, and considering the hidden sugars found in muesli bars, yoghurt and bread, it’s not much of a surprise to see the consequences play out over the years. A study found that those who drank sweet drinks regularly had a stronger desire for ultra-processed food and had less functional appetite regulating hormones, proving that the consumption of sugar-laden foods can lock us into a cycle of craving more of these foods, while affecting our ability to regulate our appetite, leaving us vulnerable to weight gain and diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease, both of which are on the rise around the globe. And it all starts with our hormones.
Excess sugar intake, particularly in the form of refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup, can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. When cells become resistant to insulin, it can result in elevated blood sugar levels, potentially leading to type 2 diabetes. This is the kind of domino effect you really don’t want to be on the other end of.
Leptin is a hormone that plays a key role in appetite regulation. It signals to the brain that you are full and should stop eating, but excessive sugar consumption can lead to leptin resistance, where the brain no longer responds to leptin signals properly. This can contribute to overeating and weight gain – think about it, if you don’t get the message to stop, what will you do? Keep eating, of course. Leptin resistance is a major contributor to obesity because we rely on this hormone to eat the right amounts at the right times. But we know it’s not always easy to quit the sweet stuff – research has shown sugar triggers the brain’s reward system, provoking a stronger reward response than cocaine in some animal studies. It works by prompting the release of dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, into the brain and triggering a reward-seeking cycle which leads to a number of addictive behaviours around seeking out sweet foods and struggling to control consumption. Researchers also note that many experience withdrawal symptoms when quitting sugar, from headaches and mood swings to cravings and even anxiety. So, is it any wonder so many of us struggle to stop?
Ghrelin is often referred to as the "hunger hormone" because it stimulates appetite. this hormone plays a massive role in letting you know when it’s time to fuel your body – the problem is, when you’re eating too much sugar, ghrelin regulation is disrupted, leading to increased feelings of hunger and cravings for sugary foods, creating a cycle of overconsumption. Ever wondered why you keep craving more chocolate even after you polished off the block? Your body’s signals are all over the place, and the best way to prevent these confusing hunger signals is to eat a diet with a range of hormone-boosting foods, from high-fibre veggies, nuts, legumes and whole grains to fermented foods, antioxidant-rich foods and a good dose of protein. Need a little help? That’s what we’re here for.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels. Chronically high sugar consumption can lead to elevated cortisol levels, contributing to chronic stress and inflammation. This can have a negative impact on overall health and increase the risk of conditions like obesity and heart disease.
While not a primary target, excessive sugar intake can indirectly affect oestrogen levels. High sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistance, which can disrupt oestrogen balance. This imbalance may contribute to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hormonal disturbances in both men and women.
Need a little help getting your health back on track? Join us for the 8-Week Program and we’ll help you change the way you look at food – and that doesn’t mean you have to follow restrictive diets or miss out on your favourite foods; we believe you can still enjoy delicious food without jeopardising your health. With celebrity chef Sarah Glover on our panel of experts, you’ll have an array of fun recipes at your fingertips, along with our own exclusive armoury of simple, tasty and healthy recipes for everything from daily meals to impressive entertaining. We know it can be hard to stick to your health goals – especially when you’re trying to manage it alone. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
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So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, it’s not too late to join. We’d love to help you get started on your health journey. Sign up HERE today!