Recent research has unveiled the devastating effect excess sugar consumption can have on our whole bodies – starting with the gut. We’ll be unpacking how these changes leave us vulnerable to widespread diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The study found that dietary added sugar significantly alters the gut microbiome, leading to metabolic syndrome – a group of conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol premeditating serious, chronic diseases. The researchers suggest that the increasingly common high-sugar diets we’re consuming can set us onto the path of obesity as a result of the effects on our gut microbiome. As the negative bacteria flourish on this diet, we start to see changes in our weight management, insulin production and blood-sugar levels. Here’s how this skyrockets our risk for developing two of the most common and dangerous chronic diseases afflicting people all around the globe.
Obesity: A sugar-driven epidemic?
Obesity is a major public health concern worldwide, and while there are a number of factors involved, excess sugar consumption is one of the biggest culprits. It’s been directly linked to the development of obesity, and this isn’t surprising when we consider how it’s processed in the body – unlike glucose, fructose can’t be further broken down by the body and, as such, requires the liver to metabolise it. Normally, our liver can handle a bit of fructose, but when we’re getting extreme doses from foods void of nutrients and fibre, it leads to the development of visceral fat; this is the dangerous kind that wraps around our abdominal organs. To make matters worse, researchers have found excess fructose can cause leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that tells the brain that we’re full, so without it we may still feel hungry even after a full meal. The consequences of this are – you guessed it – weight gain and, ultimately, obesity. Then we’ve got the effects of sugar on insulin – when we consume sugar, our bodies produce insulin to help regulate blood sugar levels. However, excessive sugar consumption can lead to chronically elevated insulin levels, which can impair the body's ability to process and store sugar properly. This can result in increased fat storage, especially around the abdominal area, which is linked to an increased risk of – you guessed it – obesity.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic condition that affects the way in which our bodies process glucose, with the main dysfunction being that the body either produces too little insulin, or it resists is altogether – this then means that your blood sugar levels will be elevated at a dangerously high level. The consequences range from increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke, to nerve damage. Around half of adult type 2 diabetics aren’t even aware they’re suffering from the condition, and that’s around 232 million people living unknowingly with a life-threatening disease. Type 2 diabetes is one of the major global health epidemics sweeping every corner of the earth – from Australia to the United States of America to India, where the study was produced, we’re seeing soaring rates of this condition, affecting a whopping 436 million people. But a more concerning trend is the growing number of people who are completely oblivious to their affliction with the disease – and considering over 4 million deaths were attributed to type 2 diabetes in 2019 alone, it’s more than a little concerning that masses may not be managing their condition. While more conservative studies place the undiagnosed cases of type 2 diabetes closer to 45% and around 30% in the USA. So, where does sugar come in? Well, excessive sugar consumption has been linked to the development of insulin resistance, as a result, the body needs to produce more insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, leading to elevated insulin levels in the bloodstream. Over time, this can exhaust the pancreas, which produces insulin, leading to a decreased ability to produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check. This can ultimately result in type 2 diabetes.
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