I will openly admit this: I probably love sugar more than the average person. I know it’s not good for me, but I simply can’t resist grabbing an after-school ice cream or adding an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie to my Potbelly order.
Until recently, I have never sat down and researched the negative effects of sugar. I was prompted to do so when I decided to calculate the amount of sugar I eat in a day and knew I was going to be at least a little embarrassed.
When I discovered the recommended amount of sugar per day from the American Heart Association is 25 grams and just one grande chai tea latte from Starbucks is 42 grams, it struck me that I have so much more to learn than I realized.
The average American eats 71.14 grams of sugar a day, often ignorant of the size of their sugar intake.
According to Healthline, “From marinara sauce to peanut butter, added sugar can be found in even the most unexpected products. Many people rely on quick, processed foods for meals and snacks. Since these products often contain added sugar, it makes up a large proportion of their daily calorie intake.”
Eating less processed sugar results in a more constant stream of energy and less mood swings, as a blood sugar spike is always followed by a crash. Decreasing your sugar intake also has many other health benefits.
High-sugar diets have been linked to high blood pressure and obesity. Consuming large amounts of sugar over an extended period of time decreases resistance to insulin which regulates blood sugar levels. Obesity and high blood sugar are both considered strong risk factors for diabetes.
A population study involving over 175 countries concluded that every 150 calories of sugar consumed per day (about one can of soda) increases the risk of diabetes by 1.1%. Obesity, insulin resistance and inflammation are all supposed to be risk factors for cancer.
Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said, “Excess sugar’s impact on obesity and diabetes is well documented, but one area that may surprise many is how their taste for sugar can have a serious impact on their heart health.”
Although the direct impact sugar has on heart health is not entirely understood, it is known that high amounts of sugar overload the liver.
According to Harvard Health, “Over time, [high sugar intake] can lead to a greater accumulation of fat, which may turn into fatty liver disease, a contributor to diabetes, which raises your risk for heart disease.”
Eating too much sugar also causes chronic inflammation, another pathway to heart disease.
Besides heart and cancer concerns, sugar also contributes to the common teenage affliction of acne. Copious amounts of sugar increase your androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which result in acne.
According to Healthline, “A study in 2,300 teens demonstrated that those who frequently consumed added sugar had a 30% greater risk of developing acne.”
There are also population studies with results indicating a relationship between sugar and acne. “Many population studies have shown that rural communities that consume traditional, non-processed foods have almost non-existent rates of acne, compared to more urban, high-income areas,” Healthline wrote, suggesting that large amounts of processed sugar contribute to acne.
Your skin could also feel sugar’s effects by speeding up the aging process: Advanced glycation end products (AGEs), compounds formed by reactions between sugar and protein, damage collagen and elastin which are key proteins that help with your skin’s elasticity and firmness.
The average adult American adult’s daily total calorie intake is 17% sugar. Health officials suggest that the daily maximum should be reduced to 10%. So, although I have to make some changes, discouraging my sweet tooth will make the times I do eat sugar even more sweet.