There are many popular theories about the health risks of sugary foods, but what’s the truth? Is sugar really an evil villain in our diet or is it just misunderstood? Let’s investigate.
Some evidence suggests that sugar is bad for your health.
But does sugar cause harm? The answer is yes, but not in the way you might think. Sugar—both high fructose corn syrup and table sugar—is a source of empty calories that can lead to weight gain. Excess body fat is linked to an increased risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
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The main way that too much sugar may cause harm is by making you gain weight. However, there’s some evidence that even if you don’t gain weight from eating more sugar, consuming it in large amounts may still be bad for your health because it causes your blood cholesterol levels to rise (by increasing triglycerides). This can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke later in life.
Sugar can cause tooth decay.
One of the most common reasons people are told to cut down on sugar is because it can cause tooth decay. While this isn’t a health concern, it’s still not something you want to deal with in your mouth!
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in your mouth break down sugars and carbs that come into contact with teeth, causing acid to form. This acid can eat away at enamel, which is the protective layer on your teeth. If you have more than just a few pits or spots on one or two teeth, then it’s time for a visit to the dentist!
Sugar may increase the risk of some cancers.
Sugar may increase the risk of some cancers.
One of the main problems with a high-sugar diet is that it can lead to insulin resistance, which is associated with a number of chronic health conditions. One such condition is cancer, since many cancers are fueled by blood sugar. This means that eating lots of added sugars may increase your chances for developing cancer in addition to other diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
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Another way sugar can be harmful is through inflammation caused by excess calories or certain types of foods—including foods high in added sugars as well as refined grains like white bread or pasta (and even fruit juice). This inflammation may also play a role in cancer growth because when cells become inflamed they’re less able to protect themselves against damage caused by free radicals (oxidative stress).
The main way that too much sugar may cause harm is by making you gain weight.
The main way that too much sugar may cause harm is by making you gain weight. When you eat food that contains sugar, it breaks down into glucose (blood sugar) and other chemicals in your bloodstream. This causes your pancreas to release hormones called insulin, which lowers your blood sugar level.
When you have lots of sugar in your diet and don’t need it for energy, the extra glucose remains in the bloodstream instead of being broken down and used as fuel for activities such as exercise or thinking. The excess glucose stores itself as fat under the skin or around organs—a process called “lipogenesis.” You may notice this as extra padding around your waistline or on other parts of the body once known colloquially as “love handles.”
Americans consume too much sugar, with some people having diets that are 30-40% sugar (and often high in fat and low in fiber).
The most recent data suggest that Americans consume, on average, about 15% of their total calories in the form of added sugars (that is, added to foods or drinks during processing or preparation). The US Department of Health and Human Services considers 10% a maximum acceptable intake for a healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 50 grams per day for women and 60 grams per day for men.
The problem is that many people eat far more than this—some estimates put our current consumption as high as 30-40% of daily calories from added sugars! This can be problematic because it contributes to weight gain and may increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Sugar is best when consumed in moderation, but eliminating it completely may not be necessary.
Sugar is a good source of energy, and it’s also a source of antioxidants. Sugar is also a source of vitamins and minerals and fiber, making your diet healthier in many ways. Sugar can be used to make candy, cookies and other baked goods that you enjoy eating. Even though sugar may not be good for you in large amounts or when consumed with every meal (or even every day), there’s no reason to eliminate sugar completely from your diet.
The bottom line is that sugar is bad for you. It can cause tooth decay, increase the risk of some cancers, and make you fat. However, we don’t need to eliminate sugar completely from our diets because there are other ways to reduce our intake (e.g., by adding more fiber). In fact, studies show that even people who eat diets high in refined sugars often consume far less than what the American Heart Association recommends each day (which is about 6 teaspoons). So if anyone tells you they cut out all sugars from their diet—well then maybe they just didn’t like sweets much anyways!