Why is sugar bad for you?

By Linda Mrkic - Accredited Exercise Scientist, M.S.C in Exercise & Wellness

Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. It can have harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to all sorts of diseases. Here are some disturbing reasons why you should avoid added sugar.

Added Sugar is high in fructose, which can overload your liver
Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract, it is broken down into two simple sugars… glucose and fructose.

Fructose: Nutrition Australia states that: “Fructose is the major carbohydrate present in fruit, and although some dietary fructose is derived from fruit, much fructose consumed in the diet is derived from sucrose (commonly known as ‘sugar’) and from foods containing added sucrose. This is because sucrose consists of 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Sweet foods such as desserts, cakes, chocolate and other confectionery, and sweetened beverages such as carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks and so on, contain large quantities of added fructose. Fruit juice is also high in fructose”

Glucose: When a food containing carbohydrate is eaten, your body digests the carbohydrate into sugar (called glucose), which can then be used as energy by the cells in your body. A hormone called insulin is needed for transferring glucose from the bloodstream to enter the body cells and be converted to energy.
When fructose gets turned into fat in the liver, it is shipped out as Very Low Density Lipoprotein cholesterol particles. However, not all the fat gets out, some of it can lodge in the liver.

Bottom Line: For people who are inactive and eat a Western diet, large amounts of fructose from added sugars, get turned into fat in the liver.

Sugar can cause insulin resistance
Insulin is a very important hormone in the body. It allows glucose (blood sugar) to enter cells from the bloodstream and tells the cells to start burning glucose instead of fat. Having too much glucose in the blood is highly toxic. To help stabilize your blood sugar levels & reduce sugar cravings, eat low glycemic index foods, and aim for 3 meals & 2-3 small snacks a day. With this, be sure to eat plenty of high protein & high fibre foods. Avoid going 4-5 hours without eating for the protection of optimising metabolism.

Bottom Line: When people eat a lot of sugar, it can cause resistance to the hormone insulin, which can contribute to many diseases.

Sugar is Highly Addictive
Sugar can be addictive for a lot of people. Like abusive drugs, sugar causes a release of dopamine in the reward centre of the brain. Tips on how to curb the sugar cravings and ultimately the addiction.
Prevent sweet cravings by eating more calories at breakfast and lunch, especially with a serve of protein.

  • Sip on herbal teas. Sweeten with Stevia if need be. 
  • Chew slowly to really taste & savour every mouthful of your food, especially treats. By doing so, you’ll need less quantity to be satisfied.
  • Once you have a food craving, try to wait at least 5-20 minutes before giving into it. Distract yourself with another activity.
  • Drink plenty of water, which can help to supress your appetite by keeping your stomach full between meals and take the edge off hunger.

Bottom Line: Because sugar causes a large release of dopamine in the brain, it can cause addiction in a lot of people.

Sugar is a Leading Contributor to Obesity in Both Children and Adults
The way sugar affects hormones and the brain is a recipe for fat gain disaster. Good habits are learned by watching not by words… set examples with good adult lifestyles for children to follow.
Nutrition Australian States that: To reduce the risk of obesity and to optimise your health, the best advice is to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Australian adults, particularly:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits
  • Eat plenty of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain
  • Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Limit your alcohol intake if you choose to drink
  • Consume only moderate amounts of foods containing added sugars
  • Prevent weight gain: be physically active and eat according to your energy needs

Bottom Line: Sugar dramatically increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese because of the effects of sugar on hormones and the brain.

It ain’t the fat… It’s SUGAR that raises your cholesterol and gives you heart disease
For many decades, people have blamed saturated fat for heart disease… which is the #1 killer in the world.
The evidence is mounting that sugar, NOT fat, may be one of the leading drivers of heart disease via the harmful effects of fructose on metabolism.

Bottom Line: For people who can’t tolerate it, added sugar is incredibly harmful. Empty calories are just the tip of the iceberg.