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How Dangerous Sugar is to your Health

By Chantal

Many people consider anything without little sweetness very boring. It could be a sign of addiction to sugar. These people are the reason why more than 50% of what we find in supermarkets and fast food joints contain at least a pinch of sugar. After all there would be no supply if the demand did not exist.

From breakfast to snacks, right up to super, one feels compelled to include sugar in meals. Even our children hardly remember what a meal tastes like without some form of sugar added to it. “If it’s not sweet, how can it be consumable?” That’s not exactly how they express the frenzy with non-sugary foods, but that seems to be the implied attitude.

Sugar is an awesome source of energy; sure we all know that (or should). Fructose, dextrose, sucrose, or glucose are forms in which we consume sugar. They are both easily digestible and transported through the body for use as fuel. They are cheap to buy and go with most of our favorite delicacies and treats.

There are basically primary and secondary sources of sugar. Natural sugars are those we find in fruits and natural milk. There are also artificially manufactured sugars which have earned the appellation “Added Sugars”.

Added sugar comes in several granulated forms and are made for several purposes.

 Natural sugars are hardly thought of as dangerous to health, and that’s because they are not. However, their counterparts, artificial or added sugars have gotten a little more than sufficient blame for most of humanity’s serious health issues. Surprising though, how their consumption is on a rise daily. The truth is, sugar is just as important as it is dangerous to human health. This implies that entirely cancelling out sugar from one’s diet is not an option. Anything (even water) will prove dangerous when taken in excess, sugar inclusive. So let’s answer the millennium question;

Is sugar bad for your health?

It depends! The substance I must say is not the problem. Quantity is! The body needs a fair quantity of sugar to function properly, and a balance between natural and added sugars should make up that quantity. To say sugar is not bad for you is just as misleading as saying sugar is bad for you. Some nutritionists and health experts have blown things out of proportion. Maybe they are part of the reason you are reading this.

 First, we must remind ourselves that sugar in a way, is to the body what fuel is to a car. It is not the only thing the body needs to function properly but it is one very important thing, without which there would be no functioning in the first place.

Our bodies store excess sugar (glucose) in a compound form we have come to know as glycogens. Glycogenesis is the process that brings about the formation of this compound. In the event that primary sources of energy are unavailable, the body disintegrates glycogen to make up the energy demand. Considering the amount of energy we need even while we are at sleep, it is extremely important that we always have glycogen stored up, waiting for that moment of demand. What will happen if it’s not available? You will simply be too weak to even sleep.

Apart from being such a great source of energy, sugar has little nutritional value. That’s the main reason why the poor substance receives so much criticism. Regarding the quantity of sugar safe for consumption, The American Heart Association recommends maximum 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily consumption for women, which amounts to about 100 calories. For men, 9 teaspoons are recommended as the maximum daily consumption. That’s about 150 calories.

This goes to say that consuming more sugar daily than you are supposed to is bad for your health. The phrase “too much sugar” is relative to the limit stated heretofore. Consider taking more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day too much for women and above 9 spoons too much for men.

Health issues related to sugar consumption levels

There are several effects of sugar. Our bodies are not built to either process or store excess sugar. Reasons why there are several heath complications which arise when we consume more sugar than we ought to. These health complications include among others;

Diabetes

In the U.S. for example, the prevalence of diabetes has risen above 8.3% of the total population. This is directly related to the increasing sugar consumption levels. Eating habits are a great call for concern. Beverages high in sugar composition such as soda and other soft drinks have contributed their fair share to the crises just like numerous fast foods and deserts with high sugar content.

Cavities

In order for bacteria which enhances tooth cavity to thrive, energy is needed. Sugar is a great source of energy and as such enhances tooth cavity which in turn results to severe tooth ache. Plague which is the name given to the bacteria responsible for cavity could be dealt with almost entirely if one’s mind is strict with recommended sugar intake levels and consumption habits as possible.

Cancer

Cancer has become very prevalent in today’s world and excess sugar consumption plays a great part in the hype. It is not one of the many high sugar symptoms. Cancer cells multiply at a rapid rate, making it hard for the body’s defense forces (white blood cells) to contain. The process of cancer cell multiplication is  enhanced by the presence of excess sugar in the system since it is a great source of energy which is needed for cell replication. Scientific researchers have found excess sugar to be capable of causing or triggering cancer in the first place. Not just enhancing or aggravating it. Reason why sugar is bad for cancer patients.

Addiction

Once the habit is made of consuming a little more sugar than is necessary for the body’s smooth functioning, you may wonder why it seems difficult resisting sugary foods. Dopamine which is triggered by abusive drugs is also released by sugar in somewhat large quantities. This makes it hard for sugar lovers to desist from consuming it even when they are told how much their systems are already loaded with sugar and the damage it is causing. It is such a problem today because most things which children and even adults find enjoyable pertaining to meals contain more than necessary amounts of sugar. Addiction is actually one of the several high sugar symptoms and an effect of sugar on the brain

Obesity

Obesity stems from the problem of sugar related addiction. Sugar has a way of decreasing satiety level and keeps a person constantly wanting more of things they should not have in the first place. People who are addicted to sugar usually have their fill of food but do not get the satisfaction that curbs appetite. Consequently eating is more for pleasure than for strength, pleasure which is hardly derived. Several research studies carried out to ascertain the correlation between sugar and obesity have proven positive. For this reasons, cutting back on sugar intake or completely eliminating added sugar in diet is a vital step towards weight loss. Obesity is not particularly one of the high sugar symptoms but could be kind of a hint to push you to the doctor.

Heart disease

High cholesterol level is closely related to heart disease. Being a famous killer in the world, it is worth noting that heart disease is triggered and aggravated by excess sugar in the body. Fructose is responsible for raising triglycerides and increasing blood glucose and insulin levels. All these come together to mount pressure on the heart, causing the effectiveness of its functionality to slow down.

The effects of sugar are not limited to the above mentioned issues. Effects of sugar on the brain is one other thing to look into. While you are asleep, your brain is still very much at work. With its millions of neurons and nerve cells, the brain demands a high level of energy supply. About half of the entire energy supplied to the body is used up by the brain to effectively carry out functions which include (but are not limited); thinking, studying and remembering.

The glucose level in the body largely determines the brain’s success in carrying out these functions. Insufficient glucose supply to brain cells would mean important brain chemicals like neurotransmitters are in short supply. Such inadequacy has the potential of slowing down or even halting communications between Neurons. This is an important effect of sugar on the brain. The result of this is decreased brain functionality with complications such as dementia which could get worse if care is not taken.

Too much sugar on the other hand is just as bad and has an adverse effect on the brain and its functionality. When high glucose levels are registered in the body, the effects might not be immediately visible but the potential for harm is great. Research studies carried out in 2012 at the University of California show a positive relationship between fructose consumptions and cell ageing while another in 2009 revealed a correlation between high glucose intake to cognitive and memory deficiencies.

The effect of sugar on the brain with regards to diabetic patients is also related to diabetic level. With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is unable to produce insulin which is necessary to keep glucose levels in check because the cells responsible for this process have been destroyed by the body’s immune system. With Type 2 diabetes, the opposite happens. Here, insulin levels rise beyond normal and cause cells to become resistant to it.  When either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes remain for a long period, their effects on the brain become even more destructive.

Type 1 diabetes left unchecked has the potential of slowing down mental reactions and functions. The impact of this level of diabetes may not affect thinking and learning abilities though attention span may be reduced. Symptoms, especially in children could include, frequent urination, unnecessary tiredness and headaches.    

Type 2 patients are liable to more serious issues like depression, confusion, shakiness and anxiety which more likely result from the stress of having to manage a long term disease than from the disease itself. This level also exposes a more serious effect of sugar on the brain and causes more damage to other important organs like the liver.

Recommendations for safe sugar consumption

In March 2015, the WHO gave new recommended guidelines for sugar consumption levels. This was issued for adults and children who are advised to cut sugar consumption down to 10% or less (about 12 teaspoons daily). Lower sugar consumption is however a better idea (25 grams or six teaspoons daily).

Other recommendations are a little more specific, placing men on a maximum 150 calories and women 100 calories for added consumption. That’s an average of 7 teaspoons or 28 grams daily added sugar consumption. For children, especially preschoolers, 170 calories (equivalent to four teaspoons) is maximum.

These recommendations were specially geared towards reducing the international health crises level associated with immodest sugar consumption habits.

Recommended Sugar types

Medical doctors, nutritionists and other health personnel agree that all sweeteners  are sugar related and do not have very much differences. Nevertheless there are some which are relatively safer for consumption. Let’s review some of them.

- Stevia: is a natural substitute sweetener which comes from the leaves of stevia plant leaves. Stevia has zero calories. It comes top of the list if compared with other non-caloric and caloric sweeteners. What is more interesting about Stevia is its bio-active components which could rather assist in calorie reduction. However it has an after effect that could make other sweeteners taste less sweet. That could increase ones intake if such sweeteners to bring about an adverse health effect. It is great for adults, though not very advisable for kids since it could cause addiction to other sweeteners.

- Honey: Most people can relate with this awesome sweetener that evenly blends fructose and glucose. Its unique antibacterial and antimicrobial components go a long way to fight off minor diseases like cough and sore throat. Higher grade honey has more important and beneficial properties. It is more of an actual food than sweetener or sugar. The disadvantage with honey is its calorie content. It is a very important sweetener supplement for children especially.

- Agave is another sweetener with an outstanding fructose content. Its most interesting feature however is for diabetics to consider. With lower glycemic index it could help control the disease, but may not be of much importance to people without diabetes.

- Coconut Sugar. It is quite nutritive but its content is dominated by sucrose. The means of processing coconut sugar makes it preferable by most people. Also it contains traces of magnesium, potassium, and prebiotic fiber. Generally, coconut sugar is a healthier sweetener than most others.

- Cane Sugar. This is sugar unrefined, from sugar cane. Another appellation for it is Turbinated Sugar. Sometimes it is used as cane juice for baking and sweetening several non-diary milks. It is a little better, relative to table sugar since it contains fewer calories.

Managing sugar intake and your health

1. First, see a Medical Doctor or Health Personnel

Do not always go with speculations. If you are not very sure what your blood sugar level is and are worried about it getting out of hand, the first and most productive thing to do is see a Doctor. Get tested and know your blood sugar levels. From the results you easily figure out what changes or adjustments will prove best.

2. Get Professional advice.

Sometimes the result of your test may seem terrible, maybe because you did not quite understand the situation. Getting a professional in the field to talk to you about your situation and give recommendations may help you realize just how simple it is to handle the situation.

3. Revise your diet.

It is important to know the sugar content of what you eat, especially the things you are very fund of. This would enable you make adjustments to keep your sugar level balanced and ensure better health. Once you have information on the sugar level endeavor to make amends.

You can start by reducing the portion of high sugar content items in meals or completely cut them off. Sometimes cutting off certain things proves quite difficult. In such a case, items with high sugar content could be supplemented with products of lower sugar content levels. For example, taking honey instead of sugar with tea.

4. Remain Disciplined

It is not enough to know how much sugar is already in your system and make amends. There is need for firm decision making. Many people who found out that their systems were especially over loaded with sugar and had diabetes died of the disease because they failed to discipline themselves enough. True! Sugary foods could be addictive, but addiction could also be broken if one decides to put in some effort at self-discipline.

5. Get Active.

Physical exercises and energy demanding activities are particularly helpful in maintaining a healthy system as far as sugar is concerned. Most of the sugar you consume should be converted to energy and used as fuel for these exercises. But when the fuel is not used up because of inactivity, the sugar is stored up and over a period of time accumulates and begins to cause trouble in the system. Effects of sugar on the brain especially have a lot to do with body exercise. The adverse effects of sugar on the brain can be dealt with by simply committing oneself to regular exercise.

- limit sugars that are refined since they have little or no nutrients.

- take more unrefined sugar by eating more fruits and vegetables.

- only increase sugar intake after work-outs

- don’t go beyond the limit. Work out does not give you the license to consume as much sugar as your appetite may crave.

- Be wise. It is better to take sugar before work hours but after exercises. You could take sugar before breakfast for those who work in the morning for example. Be moderate.

 

Diabetics and sugar consumption

As stated earlier, there are two stages of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. It is very important for people who fall under any of these levels to understand how they can take care of their health and avoid further complications.

Whether you are type 1 or type 2 diabetic patient, you should understand that maintaining proper diet or eating right plays a great role in managing or treating Diabetes Miletus. Sugar should be a no go item for diabetics as most people think. However, it is important to note that doctors and nutritionist mostly talk about managing carbohydrate consumption rather than sugar consumption. That is primarily because diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to properly process carbohydrates. So managing carbohydrates consumption is vital to controlling diabetes. Now is sugar bad for your health? Well, yes, especially if you are diabetic.

So its ok for diabetic patients to have sugar but added sugar is out of the question. In case you are unclear what a list of added sugars looks like, here is one;

  • yellow sugar
  • white sugar
  • table sugar
  • superfine sugar
  • cubes
  • refiners’ syrup
  • raw sugar
  • maltose
  • granulated sugar
  • Glucose solids
  • Galactose
  • Fructose
  • Diastatic malt
  • Dextrose
  • Dextrin
  • Dextran
  • Confectioner sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Caster sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Baker’s sugar.

High Sugar symptoms include: frequent urination, weakness, feeling unnecessarily tired, loss of weight, unusual thirst and headaches. If there is persistent increase in blood sugar level, it may bring about the following high sugar symptoms:

Poor vision;

Infections on the skin;

Slower healing for wounds and sores;

Damage of nerves which may cause pains on feet;

Constipation and diarrhea;

Problems with one’s stomach or intestines;

Extreme damage to organs like kidneys eyes etc.

 Low sugar also known as Hypoglycemia is a situation where the sugar content of your blood drops to (or less than) 70 milligrams per deciliter. However, low blood sugar levels could be considered mild or severe. Mild low blood sugar symptoms include twitching muscles, finding it difficult to maintain balance when walking, unclear speech, low concentration ability, confusion and easily irritable. With regards to this case, considering the question; is sugar bad for your health? one could say No.

 Symptoms of severe low blood sugar on the other hand may include amongst others;

Restlessness at night sweating abnormally and at a critical stage you could go unconscious (which is an effect of sugar on the brain). So if you are asked, how bad is sugar for your health or is sugar bad for your health? The answer would somehow be Yes and NO.

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good to know high sugar levels also promotes the growth of cancerous cells
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