For the past few years, sugar has been the word (and taste) on everyone’s lips. And we now know processed sugar to be a not-so-great choice when it comes to health.
On top of that, sugar can be addictive, so giving it up is not always a simple process. Brain scans show that eating sugar causes the hormone dopamine to be flooded into an area of the brain that signifies reward. This makes you feel really great in the moment. But the problem is that over time you become addicted and you need more and more of it to achieve the same effect.
Here are the different ways sugar can affect you, and why might you want to consider giving it the flick.
Excess sugar can affect our mood, on both a small or large scale. Not only is it likely to suck your energy away, research has tied sugar consumption to a greater risk of depression.
With a good mood, you are more likely to exercise, socialise, have higher self-worth and actually make healthier choices (it’s a positive feedback loop!).
Without this, you are less likely to engage in these healthy practices and it becomes a cycle of poor health symptoms, leading to poor health choices.
There are multiple mechanisms by which this may occur.
- A diet high in sugar is inflammatory to the body. Most diseases, including mental health conditions are associated with inflammation in the body. And researchers believe that depression is solely an outcome of inflammation in the body.
- Sugar has been shown to cause a biological stress where by consuming it causes a rise in cortisol which is the stress hormone.
- The brain is inextricably linked to the gut, via the vagus nerve and the immune system, so an unhealthy gut may very well affect your brain and therefore your mood.
- Insulin resistance is associated with a greater risk of depression. A common cause of insulin resistance is a diet high in sugar.
Sugar and diet in general can impact the skin in many ways.
- We’ve now established that a diet high in sugar leads to inflammation, and this leads to many problematic skin problems including acne, eczema, rosacea and pigmentation.
- An unhealthy diet may also accelerate the signs of ageing by contributing to further breaking down of the skin’s natural collagen. Or if you look at it the other way, an anti-inflammatory healthy diet filled with plenty of plants and good quality fats and animal foods slows the physical signs of aging.
- There are even some sources that suggest sugar intake can up regulate oil production in the skin.
I like to think of weight loss as a side effect of giving up sugar, rather than the main benefit. But there is no denying that high sugar intake may cause weight gain or inhibit weight loss.
There is a widely spread misconception that weight is merely determined by the amount of calories you eat. However in reality, a person’s weight is far more complex, and is actually influenced by multiple factors, of which calorie intake is just one.
What role does sugar play in your weight?
- Sugar is addictive. This means that you aren’t completely in control of how much of it you eat. As you can expect, this may lead to overconsumption of food and therefore weight gain.
- Sugar causes a rise in the hormone insulin which is responsible for taking the glucose in your blood and sorting it into its necessary place, which in the case of excess sugar consumption - is your body fat.
- Sugar is nutritionally void. While it may taste good sometimes, it does nothing to fill you up. In fact if anything, it makes you hungrier. There is no protein, fat or fibre in it and these are the dietary elements that make you feel satisfied and full. This means that even after eating something sugary, you are still likely to be hungry and therefore increase your total consumption of food.
This one is quite a large topic as there are so many lifestyle diseases that are highly prevalent in the developed world. There is no denying that an unhealthy diet, of which refined sugar intake goes hand in hand with, is associated with greater risk of all lifestyle diseases - heart disease, diabetes, obesity, some cancers and even mental health conditions.
What you need to know is there is no down side to reducing your sugar intake, and while it may not solve all your problems, making an effort to eat less processed sugar will only ever benefit your health.
Read: How To Live A Sugar Free Life With Ease