Whether you have a sweet tooth or not so much, sugar in some form is added to almost every packaged food you buy. You are probably getting more sugar—even too much sugar—without even knowing it. Refined sugar (and its substitutes) is the bane of human existence, causing all sorts of illness, disease, and general malaise. A packaged food may not say “sugar” in the list of ingredients but it may be called by something else, like:
- Corn syrup/sweetener
- Evaporated cane juice
- High fructose corn syrup
- Hydrolyzed starch
- Malt syrup
- Rice Syrup
With all these sources of sugar, how do you know how much sugar is too much? If you experience the symptoms below, it’s high time you cut out sweets from your diet.
1. Cravings for Sugar/Carbs
Sugar is addictive. It’s as addictive as cocaine and its effects are similar. Sugar stimulates the production of dopamine, a pleasure hormone. Without even thinking about it, we may crave sweets and simple carbohydrates to give ourselves a “fix”. And, like other addictions, the body builds up a tolerance for sugar so the more you eat, the more you want—even if you’re not hungry. (1)
“The theory is formulated that intermittent, excessive intake of sugar can have dopaminergic, cholinergic and opioid effects that are similar to psychostimulants and opiates, albeit smaller in magnitude. The overall effect of these neurochemical adaptations is mild, but well-defined, dependency,” writes a study published in Neuroscience Biobehavioral Reviews. (2)
It’s not about the number of calories, what matters is the quality of the calories of the food you eat. Too much sugar and starchy carbohydrates (that break down into sugar) are as harmful to our bodies as hard street drugs and are responsible for more disease and death than illegal drugs.
Watch the short video below for an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman discussing a groundbreaking study that explains the physiology behind sugar addiction.
2. Lack of Energy and Tiredness
Orexins are a type of neuropeptide (an amino acid chain that forms protein in the brain). These neurotransmitters in the hypothalamus are responsible for the sleep/wake cycle, among other things. They are sensitive to sugars and respond to glucose levels in the body. (3) Even small increases in blood glucose inhibit orexins’ transmission of neural signals, thereby inducing a sleep state. (4) So while you experience a sugar “high” shortly after eating/drinking, the “crash” that follows is how you experience the shut-down of neurotransmitters: you feel tired.
3. Weight Gain
Excess sugar consumption makes you fat. Of course, there are other factors such as activity level and metabolic rate that come into play, but the body burns sugar first for energy. What it can’t immediately use, it stores for when you need it—as fat. In addition, eating too much sugar makes you overeat by suppressing the hormone leptin, which tells the body when to stop eating. If you feel tired and lethargic from consuming sugar, you’re less likely to exercise, too.
A rise in blood glucose stimulates insulin production to get it back down to normal levels. Insulin decreases blood sugar levels: when it fluctuates or gets too low, your body thinks it needs more fuel. So you eat even when you don’t really need to. (5)
On the other hand, proteins keep us active and awake. Eating protein stimulates orexins, which make you feel alert and promote active metabolism to burn calories. (6)
4. Frequent Cold and Flu
Too much sugar depresses the immune system. That’s because glucose reduces the activity of white blood cells, which are responsible for killing pathogens like viruses. (7) Eating too much sugar on a regular basis makes us more susceptible to whatever contagion may be floating around because our bodies are less able to fight it.
5. Dull Taste Buds
Many people define a sweet taste as pleasant. Our tongue gets used to different flavors and sugar is no exception. British researchers found that overweight people have a dulled sensitivity to tasting sweets and a liking for sweet food. In the same study, healthy and fit people who began to drink 2 soft drinks a day had dulled taste buds and sugar cravings after only 4 weeks.
“Our subconscious drive plays a huge role in what food choices we make, and as overweight people feel hungrier they are more affected by their subconscious drive for sweet high calorie foods,” wrote the study. (8)
Similarly, a 2016 study found that after a month of cutting down on dietary sugar, the experimental group found they were more sensitive to sweet flavors. Therefore, if you cut down on sugar, food will begin to taste sweeter without it. (9) Sweet!
6. Foggy Brain
A study published in the journal Neuroscience found that mice fed a diet “similar in composition to the typical diet of most industrialized western societies rich in saturated fat and refined sugar” experienced a reduced brain function in only 2 months. That’s because high amounts of sugar affect proteins and neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for learning and memory. (10) In short: sugar makes you more stupid.
7. Skin Problems
Collagen is the most prevalent protein in the body and is responsible for skin elasticity. By nature, sugar molecules bind to collagen and help collagen cells move around. Too much sugar in the body makes collagen cells less mobile and thus causes stiffness of tissues, including skin. (11) Loss of elasticity in the skin becomes apparent with the advent of wrinkles, among other things.
Plus, increased levels of sugar cause acne and dermatitis. Carbohydrates like bread, cereal, rice, and pasta cause an increase in insulin and androgen (a male sex hormone) production. Androgens cause the glands in the skin to produce extra oil, clogging pores and resulting in pimples. (12)
Also, candida is a yeast that lives in the digestive tract and on the skin. As a yeast, it thrives on sugar. Eating excess sugar makes yeast proliferate, resulting in nail infections, vaginal infections, athlete’s foot, and oral thrush. (13)
What’s more, high blood sugar can also lead to diabetic neuropathy, causing tinggling and pain in the feet.
Over time, internal inflammation and increased insulin production can cause cells to abnormally and rapidly reproduce. Cancer cells live on sugar, so that’s one more reason to ditch the sugar habit.