The average American stays on a sugar high, eating the equivalent of 31 teaspoons of sugar each day. In addition to the obvious sugar in sodas (a 12-ounce can contains 10 teaspoons), desserts, and candy bars, sugar is a common ingredient in processed foods, from pizza sauce to crackers. And it's wreaking havoc on our bodies. Check out 11 conditions linked to sugar consumption — ample reasons to begin slashing the sugar in your daily diet.
Wrinkles. Skin expert Dr. Nicolas Perricone believes that sugar is a major cause of wrinkles. He told Discovery.com that sugar causes a major rise in blood sugar which accelerates aging. "When blood sugar goes up rapidly, sugar can attach itself to collagen in a process called 'glycation,' making the skin stiff and inflexible. Losing this elastic resilience of young skin will give you deep wrinkles and make you look old," he said.
Fatigue. Too much sugar can cause our blood sugar levels to fluctuate wildly and leave us feeling fatigued. The more sugar we consume, the more unstable our blood glucose becomes and the more sugar we crave, creating a vicious cycle.
Heart disease. A recent Italian study found that women whose diets included large amounts of sugary foods more than doubled their risk of heart disease. Women who consumed the highest amounts of high-carbohydrate foods, which include sweets, white breads, and sweetened breakfast cereals, increased their risk of heart disease 2.24 times when compared to women who consumed the lowest amounts.
Just like fatty foods, foods loaded with sugar increased their levels of "bad" blood fats known as triglycerides, while reducing their levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. A study at Emory University also linked high sugar consumption with lower levels of good cholesterol. “Reducing added sugars will reduce cardiovascular disease risk,” Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., chair of the American Heart Association, said in a statement.
Weakened immune system. Back in the 1970s, researchers realized that white blood cells needed vitamin C to fight viruses and bacteria, and that glucose (sugar) limits the amount of vitamin C that can enter the cell. A blood sugar level of 120 reduces the ability of cells to neutralize viruses and bacteria by 75 percent, dramatically lowering the body's ability to fight disease.
Obesity. Sugar raises blood sugar levels, prompting the release of insulin. Since insulin promotes the storage of fat, the result is weight gain.
Cancer. A 10-year Swedish study found a link between high blood sugar levels and the risk of developing several types of cancer, including pancreatic, cervix, and uterine.
Gallstones. Studies have consistently found a link between high sugar consumption and gallstones, including an eight-year Italian study which found that refined sugars and saturated fat were directly related to gallstone formation.
Diabetes. When people with a genetic tendency to develop diabetes gain too much weight (often from excess sugar), their production of insulin will slow or their bodies will stop responding to insulin. The result is diabetes. Researchers at Rutgers believe that high-fructose corn syrup, an ingredient in most sugar-sweetened sodas, may start a series of events in the body that leads to diabetes.
Depression. Large, regular doses of sugar can, over time, cause the brain's endorphin sites to slow production or stop altogether. "When the body cuts back on endorphin production it reduces the amount of endorphins available in the body at any given time. The lack of enough endorphin in the brain causes slight to deep depression," says Annette Nay, Ph.D.
Osteoporosis. British physician John Yudkin found that consuming large amounts of sugar causes an increase in cortisol. An excess of cortisol can cause osteoporosis. A study found that feeding hamsters a diet high in sugar caused osteoporosis, even though the animals were given adequate amounts of calcium.
Tooth decay and periodontal disease. Not only can sugar rot teeth, it can lead to gum infection — which can cause heart disease by inflaming our coronary arteries.
Several organizations, including the American Heart Association, suggest limiting added sugar be limited to no more than 6 to 7 percent of your daily calories. (This amount doesn't count natural sugars, such as those in fruit.)
Use these two tips to avoid hidden sugar in your diet:
• Cook from scratch. Cooking food at home puts you in control of what goes into the dishes you prepare. Even if a recipe calls for sugar, you can eliminate it or cut it in half.
• Read and understand labels. Dextrose, sucrose, lactose, sucrose, maltose, corn syrup, and fruit juice concentrates are all names for sugar.