Do you eat a lot of sugar? Do you feel like your sugar intake is out of control? Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We average about seventeen teaspoons of sugar (that’s about 270 calories) every day in the U.S.! The main source of these sugars are: drinks, baked goods, sweetened dairy, and candy. All that sugar can’t be good for you though, can it?
So what are the effects of too much sugar? I’ll save the boring scientific explanation for now and keep this simple. When you eat, your body breaks down food into sugar and sends it into your blood. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It moves sugar from your blood and into your cells. When sugar enters your cells, one of two things happen. It is either immediately used as fuel or energy, or it is stored for later use. Problems may result when insulin is not used right away. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas which regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. Your body may not be able to produce enough insulin to decrease the release of glucose.This raises blood sugar. If it gets too high, then bad things can happen. Let’s get into the symptoms of too much sugar next
Most people are concerned that eating too much sugar will lead to weight gain. They’re not wrong. It is a huge contributor to weight gain which has its own risk factors, including some of the issues listed below. Sugar is high in calories and offers few other nutrients. Even without significant weight gain, having too much sugar can lead to a whole host of other issues besides this.
Sugar can sour, rather than sweeten, your mood. You eat a lot of sugar, you get a high from it, only to crash shortly afterwards. I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced these sugar crashes too. You may actually feel jittery, anxious or even develop depression over time. Research says that eating lots of added sugars may increase cravings for more sugar. This creates an energy-depleting cycle, a vicious cycle indeed. Over time, you start to need more sugar to get the same feelings of pleasure it once gave you. Does this remind you of anything? It sounds a lot like tolerance to alcohol or drugs to me, especially after many years of helping people with addiction.
Eating too much sugar can cause skin issues such as acne. Moderate to severe acne can develop in those who drink sweetened beverages daily according to a study of university students in China. Additionally, too much sugar may affect collagen formation in the skin which can lead to faster aging of your skin. Collagen is often thought of as the body’s scaffolding. It’s the very glue that holds the body together. One common myth is that a collagen supplement alone will help reverse aging skin. Some studies show it can help in wound healing and skin aging. However, the science is still in its infancy with lots of conflicts of interest. Not being able to manage glucose well usually goes hand in hand with poor gut health and high stress. This could mean that collagen is used to deal with these issues rather than improving your skin. It doesn’t help that collagen can be costly, so you could be throwing your money away.
A diet high in added sugars can negatively impact your sleep. Not getting enough sleep can then impact your energy levels. This can also lead to high blood sugar levels, which leaves you feeling tired. Not exactly a winning combination, as poor blood sugar regulation can make you wake up in the middle of the night, interrupting sleep.
Ever feel bloated? Well, sugar may be responsible for that. Some sweeteners can cause gas and bloating. For instance, an artificial sweetener like sorbitol can’t be digested. It isn’t only the unnatural stuff that can do this though. A natural sugar like fructose is added to many foods. Fructose is hard for many people to digest. Avoiding added sugars is one way to reduce bloating.
Everyone has heard that eating too much sugar can cause cavities. This happens because bacteria within plaque use sugar for energy. They release acid as a waste product and this gradually dissolves the enamel in the teeth. Not such a pretty picture is it?!
Is brushing your teeth right after eating or drinking sugary foods the answer then? Well, not quite. While it does help, the effects of too much sugar are that they deprive the body of getting key nutrients. So what does the body do? It takes important minerals it needs, like calcium, from the teeth! Thus, your teeth are a good sign of your health. Teeth problems could mean nutritional deficiencies.
Blood sugar problems
Consistently high blood sugar levels could lead to type 2 diabetes. This is an impairment in the way your body regulates and uses sugar as fuel. It results in excess sugar circulating in the blood. As such, your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, a hormone regulating the transport of sugar into your cells. These cells also respond poorly to insulin and take in less sugar. Sadly, type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes, but it’s beginning earlier and earlier these days. If blood sugar problems can’t be regulated through changes in diet and exercise, then medications or insulin therapy are needed.
If you have type 2 diabetes or are at risk for it, extremely high blood sugar levels can result in hyperglycemia. This means that your body can’t process sugar. At first, you’ll pee more often. Your frequency of peeing will decrease later, but your urine could become dark and you could end up very dehydrated. You might also experience blurred vision, fatigue or headaches. If left untreated, toxic acids (ketones) may build up in your blood and urine. Signs and symptoms of untreated hyperglycemia include: fruity smelling breath, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, dry mouth, weakness, confusion, abdominal pain, or even coma! Hyperglycemia is serious business.
High blood sugar levels can also affect the kidneys. Once blood sugar levels exceed a certain level, your kidneys start spilling sugar into your urine. If you develop type 2 diabetes, then too much sugar can lead to kidney damage! Uncontrolled diabetes can damage the kidneys’ blood vessels and destroy their filters. The kidneys then can’t run effectively. When their blood vessels get damaged, the kidneys can’t properly clean your blood. This results in increased water and salt retention, as well as waste materials building up in your blood. If it evolves into kidney disease, then you may need to go on dialysis. The only exception is getting a kidney transplant, a scary prospect!
Did you know that eating too much added sugar can increase your risk for heart disease? How this happens isn’t completely understood yet, but the connections are indirect. Too much sugar can overload your liver. It can lead to a greater accumulation of fat, which could turn into fatty liver disease. This can lead to diabetes, a risk factor for heart disease. Excess sugar can also raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation. These are also pathways to heart disease, increasing the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Again, pretty serious stuff.
There’s already an established link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. More recently, type 3 diabetes has been proposed. It suggests that Alzheimer’s disease (a major cause of dementia) is triggered by a type of insulin resistance and a dysfunction of insulin-like growth factor that occurs in the brain. Type 3 may be triggered by insulin resistance in your brain, a diabetes of the brain, if you will. Diabetes might also cause chemical imbalances in your brain that could trigger Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, high blood sugar levels bring about inflammation which may damage brain cells.
There you have it
Those are some symptoms of too much sugar intake. As you can see, it can cause all sorts of problems. Some are pretty serious and may warrant medical intervention. Improving diet and exercise can help you significantly reduce these risk factors. Avoiding sugar problems altogether is ideal.
What happens when you eat too much sugar? Be sure to tell us below…