It shouldn’t come as a surprise that added sugar like high fructose corn syrup is bad for your health. Any sort of sugar that’s added to your food in order to enhance the appearance or flavor is not nutritious or beneficial for your health in any way.
What may be surprising is the various places that sugar can hide. It’s not just in candy or baked goods. From cereal to salad dressing, sugar can be found in the most unsuspecting places.
The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories of added sugar a day and for men the number is 150. On average, Americans consume about three times that amount.
The risks involved in consuming too much added sugar may have you thinking twice about what you stock your kitchen with. There are many reasons, but here are 9 of the scariest.
Sugar Can Contribute to Growth of Cancerous Cells
Because excessive sugar consumption can negatively affect insulin, it may consequentially also lead to uncontrollable growth and multiplication of cells. In other words, cancer.
There’s no concrete proof that this is the case, but there have been many studies1 that have found considerable evidence2 to suggest that this is a real cause for concern.
It May Lead to Obesity
While the public was freaking about nutritional fat packing on the pounds, the real culprit for weight gain3 crept into our diets. Sugar is a carbohydrate. The body uses carbs for energy. Since sugar is a quick source of energy, if it’s consumed in excess it is turned into fat so the body can store it and use it as energy later.
Consuming Sugar Increases Risk of Diabetes
Emerging evidence from recent studies4 clearly draws a connection between sugar intake and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome involves insulin resistance to glucose, which in turn is what leads to type 2 diabetes. Insulin is what prompts cells5 to absorb blood glucose for energy or to be stored as fat.
The more sugar you consume, the more insulin the pancreas makes in order to keep blood sugar levels normal. Eventually the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to do this, which is when type 2 diabetes develops.
It Can Cause Fatty Liver Disease
Though not a well-known disease, it’s one of the most common health issues in America. While virtually every cell in the body can break down glucose for energy, liver cells are the only ones that can break down fructose. Normally the liver can manage this work load, but when too much fructose is constantly being brought into the body, it can have damaging effects6. Sometimes the fat that fructose is turned into doesn’t make it out of the liver. This can cause buildup and scarring.
Sugar Is Addictive
If you ever hear someone talk about how they’re “addicted to sugar,” they really could be. What was once thought to be nothing more than an expressive phrase has come to claim serious validity.
Dopamine, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, are released when you consume sugar. The more your body associates that good feeling with sugar, the more you want it. The more sugar you consume, the less those neurotransmitters respond. Eventually the amount of sugar needed to achieve that feeling is simply too high to ever reach it – but the addiction tells you to keep eating, anyway.
It’s important to note that some people are more prone7 to sugar addition than others. These are the same people who are prone to addiction in general.
It May Raise Blood Pressure
Obesity is a major risk factor for high blood pressure. As has already been discussed, high sugar consumption is a major factor in obesity. While that alone connects excessive fructose consumption with high blood pressure, there’s new research8 that indicates that fructose can raise blood pressure independent from weight gain.
High blood pressure increases the workload of the heart and arteries and as a result can cause serious cardiovascular issues.
Eating Too Much Sugar Impairs Brain Function
Not only has increased sugar consumption been linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia, but it can impair every day cognitive function and eat away at proteins that are necessary for memory and responsiveness. This all goes back to how fructose can negatively affect insulin – in this case, fructose may block insulin’s ability to regulate how your brains cells store and use sugar that’s necessary to fuel your thoughts.
It Can Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease
A new study9 directly links high fructose corn syrup in sugary drinks to an increased risk of heart disease. Those whose caloric intakes are at least 25% from sugar are twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose caloric intakes are less than 10%, but even 10% is at risk.
Further, research shows that consuming large amounts of fructose can raise triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, raise blood sugar and insulin levels, and increase abdominal obesity. All of these are risk factors for heart disease.