7 Consequences of Added Sugar + 6 Types Explained
Sugar is a natural ingredient that has been part of our diet for thousands of years.
Sugars are naturally present in foods (such as fruit, vegetables and milk), while refined sugar is manufactured and deliberately added to foods. As a result, more and more people get too much sugar.
Sugars are carbohydrates that deliver energy to the body. The most common sugar in the body is glucose, which your brain, organs and muscles need to function properly.
The body makes no distinction between the different types of sugar and breaks them down in exactly the same way.
What you will discover in this article is:
- The most important functional properties of sugar in foods
- The health effects of sugar on your body
- How many grams of sugar is the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to eat per day
- 6 practical tips that can help you reduce sugar
- And much, much more …
What is sugar?
Sugar is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in plants, but is mainly extracted from sugar cane and sugar beet. It is used to make food and drinks taste sweet. Sugar is also the general term for all disaccharides and monosaccharides.
Eat a teaspoon of sugar and immediately recognize that intense sweet taste in your mouth. It is that sweet white powder that is inextricably linked to almost everything we eat.
At every birthday or holiday, we are confronted with it in large quantities.
There are different types of sugar derived from different sources.
Some foods contain simple sugars. Simple sugars do not have to be broken down during digestion. Simple sugars are called monosaccharides and include glucose (also known as dextrose), fructose and galactose.
Glucose and galactose are easily absorbed, but some people have difficulty taking fructose if it is not accompanied by glucose or galactose.
Sucrose, popularly called table sugar or granulated sugar, is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose. Other disaccharides include maltose from malted cereals and lactose from milk. Longer chains of sugars are called oligosaccharides or polysaccharides.
Some other chemicals, such as glycerol, may also have a sweet taste, but are not classified as sugars.
In summary: We can roughly classify sugar into natural sugars (naturally occurring sugars such as lactose in milk) and refined sugars, including table sugar (sucrose) and concentrated sources of fruit juice.
Virtually all fibers, vitamins and minerals have been removed from refined sugars. Eating too many refined carbohydrates and added sugars can eventually lead to overweight and other health problems.
What is the function of sugar in foods?
Sugar has a number of properties that uniquely contribute to the appearance, texture and shelf life of food.
That is why it is an important ingredient in both the food we make at home and pre-manufactured food in the supermarket.
Apart from giving sweetening power, sugar has many more functional roles in our food.
Without sugar, for example, the jam would quickly spoil and bread lose its freshness and dry out. All these functional properties of sugar are not always well known and are sometimes even forgotten.
The most important functional properties of sugar are shown below (source):
Improvement of taste
Sweetness improves the taste of many foods. Besides sweetness, there are three other basic flavors: salt, sour and bitter. The sweetness of sugar is often used to balance and improve the basic flavors.
Filler and structure
Sugar contributes to the texture and color of food, such as in meringue and cookies. This is of great importance in most baking applications. Sugar also prevents baked goods from becoming dry or old and preserves the color of frozen fruit and jelly.
Caramelisation is important for the formation of color in various food products and can not happen without the addition of sugar.
This process occurs when sugar is heated to a certain temperature. It is used in a wide range of products, including sauces, sweets, bread, jam and dessert wine.
Sugar can be said to have a preserving effect, although sugar is not counted among the preservatives. Sugar helps to prevent or delay the growth of bacteria, fungi and yeast in canned and glass preserves.
Fermentation is a process whereby micro-organisms generate energy in the absence of oxygen by oxidizing carbohydrates, such as sugar.
Sugar helps in the fermentation of common food and beverage products, including yogurt, vinegar, sour cream, wine, beer, bread, cheese and sauerkraut.
The different types of sugar names
It is surprising how many foods do not have the word sugar on their packaging.
Does this mean that there are no added sugars in the food product?
Unfortunately not. The reason for this is that foods often contain hidden sugars that are mentioned on the label under alternative names (sugar names).
Only when we realize how many foods have been added sugars can we do our best to avoid them.
In the supermarket, we are completely tempted with sugar. Sugar is added to more than half (56%) of the food products in the supermarket, according to a Foodwatch sample of 651 products from the largest supermarket chains in Western Europe.
It is in the foods we give to our children as a snack. In fact, we even use it as a reward for good behavior. Children generally have a sweeter taste than adults, which only makes the urge for something tasty sweetness stronger.
How does the body absorb sugar?
When we eat sugar, enzymes in the small intestine break down into glucose. This glucose is then released into the bloodstream, where it is transported to tissue cells in our muscles and organs. There it is converted into energy.
Beta cells in the pancreas constantly monitor the amount of glucose in the bloodstream and release free insulin to control this.
Too much glucose and your body send a distress signal to your pancreas to produce insulin.
This means that if you consume more sugar than your body needs, it can be stored for later to keep the blood sugar level constant.
If your body stops producing enough insulin or your cells become resistant to it (insulin resistance), this can lead to diabetes, causing your blood sugar level to rise to a dangerous level.
Having too little glucose is not good either because you deprive the biological processes in your body of energy.
How much sugar can you eat per day?
It is difficult to give up sugar once you are used to it.
If you use sweets every day, it is still a big challenge to stop. In addition, sugar has some unique characteristics that make it difficult to suppress the sense of sweetness.
That eating a lot of added sugars is unhealthy for you may be clear by now. But how much sugar is too much? Is there a ‘safe amount of sugar’ that you can eat per day?
Can not eat a little bit of sugar every day or should you avoid it as much as possible?
Of course, you can eat something from sugar every day.
Avoiding sugar altogether is also not possible. It occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, among other things. Avoiding that would be unhealthy.
Make at least always distinguish between natural sugars and added sugars. The consumption of added sugars, which are added to foods, you want to limit as much as possible.
When losing weight and improving your health is your main goal, it is wise not to eat processed foods that contain added sugars.
6 tips to eat less sugar
The intention to reduce sugar is a good start, but decisively reducing sugar requires dedication and perseverance.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to give up sugar. Sugar-free food does not exist. But it can be a little less.
An uncontrollable strong urge to eat sweet food, despite not wanting is a big warning sign!
Lifestyle factors such as exercise, sleep and stress all play an important role in your health. They can also have a big influence on the food choices you make.
That’s why I have some practical tips here that can help you reduce sugar:
Tip # 1: Start with simple changes
Do you want to reduce sugar? Start slowly and learn how to make changes in your diet by simply avoiding added sugars and processed carbohydrates.
Strive for improvement, not for perfection. The latter can lead to an unhealthy nutritional disorder.
Tip # 2: Avoid high-sugar foods
The next time you go to the supermarket, check the labels carefully and do not buy anything that contains a lot of added sugars. Go for foods with less refined sugars.
Tip # 3: Go for healthy and nutritious food
Eat nutritious foods with sufficient nutrients that give you a feeling of fullness.
Stay away from the vending machine but opt for healthy snacks at work.
Fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring sugars. However, they are not a problem because they do not affect blood sugar levels in the same way as added sugars.
Tip # 4: Do not be afraid of healthy fats
A high sugar intake stimulates the appetite.
coupled with increased appetite and weight gain. It has been shown that eating more proteins and fats has the opposite effect, so you have less appetite for food.
For many people, eating enough healthy fats and proteins helps to reduce their urge for sweets (source).
It has been proven that proteins and fats do a lot for your satiety. If you feel full, you are less likely to feel uncontrollable in sweets. A study even shows that increasing your protein in your diet by 25% reduces the appetite by 60% (source).
In order to contain the cravings in sugar, you need to bring in more protein and high-fat food, such as meat, fish, eggs, whole dairy products, avocados and nuts.
Tip # 5: Cook more often for yourself
Old-fashioned nice cozy cooking for yourself and/or the family is getting less and less done. In the sixties, almost all our meals were prepared in-house. We have done so much less in recent decades.
Eating outside the door has the disadvantage that we have no control over the ingredients that are used in the kitchen. When we cook at home, we determine whether and how much sugar we add. We do not know this in a restaurant.
Cooking at home and deciding for yourself what kind of dinner you will make does not have to be difficult at all: ask what your partner wants. Or take the turn over responsibility for dinner if the situation allows it.
Tip # 6: Sleep well enough
This tip may sound strange to this article about sugar, but adequate sleep is very important to make healthy choices and avoid high-sugar foods.
Try to provide at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Studies show that sleep deprivation creates a hormonal imbalance. In other words, the less you sleep, the greater the chance that your body longs for sweets.
Meditate for a better sleep time!
What are the health effects of sugar?
People often take a rigorous decision to reduce (added) sugar if they get health problems.
However, when they see the number of food products that contain added sugars, they feel overwhelmed and motivation often disappears like snow in the sun.
It is well known that sugar can cause weight gain and diabetes. But the actual extent of the damage that causes sugar is less known.
So, for some more motivation to reduce sugar, let’s see which health problems can cause excessive sugar consumption:
What does sugar eat with your heart?
For a long time, doctors have blamed saturated fat for the increase in cardiovascular disease.
But there is increasing evidence that added sugar (and not only fat) is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease.
A 2013 study showed that sugar can actually influence the pump mechanism of your heart and increase the risk of heart failure.
It also appears that people who get more than 10% of their daily calorie requirement from added sugars are 30% more likely to die due to heart disease.
People who get more than 25% of their calories from added sugars triple the risk (source). This relationship continues as the intake of sugar increases: an increased sugar intake leads to a higher risk of heart disease.
It is therefore not surprising that many observational studies find strong statistical links between excessive sugar use and the risk of heart disease.
What does sugar eat with your weight?
You probably already know that eating too many calories – from whatever source – will lead to fat storage if they are not burned.
But do you also know that fast sugars lead to overweight much faster?
Excessive sugar use increases blood sugar levels, causes stress for the liver and worsens metabolism in your body.
A high blood sugar level is inevitable with refined sugar (especially in liquid version). So if you drink soft drinks, for example, your blood sugar level will rise faster than if you eat a piece of peopled bread.
As a result, refined sugars can play a role in the development of weight gain and excess weight. The more you gain weight, the less sensitive your body becomes to insulin.
Long-term increased blood sugar levels and insulin levels are risk factors for almost every chronic disease.
Abnormally high blood sugar levels are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, various types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In addition, recent studies show that replacement of saturated fat in the diet with refined carbohydrates leads to adverse health effects.
Most sugar-rich products hardly contain nutrients and dietary fiber. Fibers slow the digestion and absorption of sugar and ensure that blood sugar levels remain stable.
We clearly see that excessive sugar intake and overweight are related to children.
In the UK, 67% of men and 57% of women are either overweight or obese. More than a quarter of children are also overweight or obese – 26% of boys and 29% of girls.
Many obese children have fat accumulation around the abdomen. A cause of this health problem may be the increase in beverages that are loaded with fructose.
A 2010 study in children showed that excessive fructose intake (no glucose intake) caused visceral fat cells to mature – which formed the stage for a large stomach and an even greater future risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
One of the most important things you can do to get rid of body weight is to reduce significantly with sugar consumption.
What does sugar eat with your liver?
Refined sugars contain a lot of fructose, which can overload the liver.
Before sugar from the digestive tract enters the bloodstream, it is broken down into two simple sugars: glucose and fructose.
Glucose can be found in every living cell on earth. We get it out of food, but our body also makes it itself.
Fructose is different, our body does not produce it on its own. The liver must convert fructose into glucose to use it as energy.
A little bit of fructose (like fruit) can not hurt. In this case, the fructose is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver until we need it.
However, the storage of glycogen in the liver is limited. When the liver is full of glycogen, it overloads the liver and fructose is converted into fat.
When large quantities of sugar are eaten repeatedly, this can lead to liver fattening and other serious health problems.
Several studies show that people with fatty liver consume up to 2-3 times as much fructose as the average person.
It differs per person to what extent this leads to health risks. People who are healthy and active can tolerate more sugar than people who are inactive and follow an unhealthy, high-calorie diet.
But even if you do not suffer from overweight, fructose can be dangerous for your liver.
A 2013 study found that monkeys suffered liver damage due to fructose, even though they were at a normal weight and did not eat extra calories (source).
What does eating sugar with your teeth?
The dentist hammered on every visit: do not eat too many sugar-rich products because sugar is bad for your teeth.
And this advice is given for a good reason: sugar is bad for the teeth because it is a food source for harmful bacteria in the mouth (source).
Sugar contains a lot of empty calories, without essential nutrients. Sugar causes tooth decay because it provides easily digestible energy.
Stimulating saliva production can help keep your teeth healthy. Saliva naturally washes your teeth.
Chewing sugar-free chewing gum and incorporating fibrous fruit and vegetables into your diet are good ways to produce more saliva.
Cheese, yogurt and other dairy products also contain calcium and phosphates to strengthen the teeth and are much better choices for snacks than sugary or starchy delicacies.
In addition, green and black teas contain substances that help to suppress harmful oral bacteria.
So something as simple as drinking a few cups of tea a day can help you maintain a healthy balance in your mouth.
What does sugar eat with your body?
What we eat every day can greatly affect our health in the future, even if we improve our eating habits.
A diet with a lot of sugar causes many health problems that shorten your life expectancy by a few years. The culprits are overweight, diabetes, and heart disease.
Added sugars in processed food products are the main culprit.
Professor Cynthia Kenyon, American molecular biologist and praised for her research into aging, has discovered that carbohydrates (which include sugars) have a direct impact on the genes that determine the aging process and the lifespan.
In an interview with the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), Professor Cynthia Kenyon said: “I think that a high-carbohydrate diet (which produces a lot of insulin) is not good for you (source). ”
To reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases and premature death, it is important that you get fewer sugars. The easiest way to do this is to avoid processed foods and sweetened beverages.
The problem is that sugar has more than 60 different names, so most people are not even aware of how much sugar they eat every day.
A 2013 study concluded that worldwide 180,000 deaths can be attributed to the consumption of sugar-rich drinks. The number of people who die each year is the result of chronic diseases, diabetes, heart disease and cancer due to excessive sugar consumption (source).
What does sugar eat with your skin?
Do you think that added sugars have no effect on your skin? Then I must, unfortunately, disappoint you.
Researchers have discovered over the years that too much sugar in the bloodstream can accelerate a process called ‘glycation’ that in turn ages the skin.
When you eat food, the body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars such as glucose and fructose. These sugars are used to provide your body with energy.
When we consume too much sugar, these sugars may react abnormally with proteins and fats. They then produce harmful molecules that are also called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). We call this process glycation.
The more AGEs we have in our body, the sooner we grow old. AGEs also play a role in the development of diabetes, chronic renal failure, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease (source).
What does sugar do with inflammation?
Researchers think that constantly increasing insulin levels (as a result of excessive sugar eating and drinking) can contribute to chronic inflammation.
Inflammation creates free radicals. Free radicals seek stability by stealing electrons from other stable molecules, allowing a chain reaction of free radicals that cause damage to body cells, proteins and DNA.
The immune system plays an important role in good health. The risk of infections, inflammations and even cancer increases as our immune system weakens and weakens due to aging and other processes.
Every second of our lives, our cells are attacked by particles that we call free radicals. Normally antioxidants protect us from free radicals and the damage caused by free radicals is repaired without many consequences.
An excess of free radicals in the body can increase the risk of various diseases, including cancer.
What about natural sugars?
Do natural sugars (such as honey, cane sugar, palm sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup or agave syrup) have a lesser effect on the body?
To answer that question we must first have a clear idea of what natural sugars are.
Natural sugars (fruit sugars) are sugars that occur naturally in foods.
Lactose, for example, is a natural milk sugar and fructose is a sugar that occurs in fruit. Other types of natural sugars are: maple syrup, agave syrup, honey, coconut blossom sugar, etc.
Refined (added) sugar is the result of a purification process in which the juice from sugar beets is stripped of all vitamins and minerals. What remains is white, pure sugar that we recognize as table sugar or pure sucrose.
Sources of natural sugars (such as fruit) are considered healthier than refined sugars because they also contain fiber, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. As a result, fruit sugars are absorbed much more slowly in the blood, which means that the blood sugar level remains stable.
Original sugar cane has a sugar concentration of 10-15% and the rest consists of water, fibers, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Refined (added) sugar consists of 99.5% sucrose and 0.5% water (source).
Are artificial sweeteners an alternative to sugar?
Many people try to get less sugar nowadays. Maybe you are also looking for alternatives.
Artificial sweeteners are sweet-tasting, non-caloric food additives that are of synthetic origin.
They have a sweetening power that is many times stronger than sugar and can, therefore, be used in small quantities in food and beverages.
Although ‘natural flavors’ certainly sound better than ‘artificial flavors’, they are not really that different. For example, many people use them for sweetening coffee or as a replacement for sugar in soft drinks.
Artificial sweeteners undergo a safety assessment before they can be used in foods.
Various artificial sweeteners have been approved for consumer use, including acesulfame-K, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose and steviol glycosides.
There is increasing evidence that artificial sweeteners may not be as beneficial as we always thought.
The evidence of artificial sweeteners for a role in the prevention of weight gain is mixed, although the conclusions of many studies seem to be influenced by the source of funding.
A meta-analysis of 37 studies shows that in the long term the consumption of artificial sweeteners can be seen as a risk factor for the development of the metabolic syndrome (a collection of disorders that increase the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases among others).
There is also evidence that artificial sweeteners can have a negative influence on the gut microbiome (gut flora) and glucose tolerance.
Recent research has investigated the influence of commonly used sweeteners on the human intestinal flora. In this study, Israeli, Singaporean and Italian researchers examined the effects of six FDA-approved artificial sweeteners: aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, advantame and acesulfame-K, as well as 10 sports supplements containing these sweeteners (source).
Scientists have used modified E. coli bacteria for the research. These bacteria light up when they come into contact with a toxin. E.coli bacteria are ‘good’ bacteria that are naturally found in small quantities in the intestine. Then the artificial sweeteners were introduced to the modified E. coli bacteria.
What turned out? The researchers discovered that intestinal bacteria showed a toxic reaction when exposed to the sweeteners in concentrations of only 1 milligram per milliliter.
With more than 400 species of these bacteria in our intestines, our health depends on maintaining a healthy balance between good and harmful intestinal bacteria. More than 70% of the immune cells of our body are in our intestines.
You do not have to have a medical background to understand that good intestinal health is indispensable for a healthy immune system.
When the gut microbiome is affected, it may not work as well, which in the long run can lead to chronic health conditions such as liver disease, colon cancer and autoimmune diseases.
In theory, it could be that artificial sweeteners in your diet can affect your immune system or cause autoimmune diseases. That is what the medical world is increasingly concerned about.
Risks of sweeteners do not necessarily have to come to light because without us we can undermine our health or give effects in the long term. More research is needed in any case.
A final concern is that the use of artificial sweeteners does not cause people to change their personal taste preferences for sweetness. This can lead to your desire for sweet food no less. If you want to abstain from sugar, you do not want to desire a sweet taste.
A randomized controlled trial showed that drinking aspartame-sweetened drinks increased the appetite in young men compared to those who did not drink (source).
In summary: It is clear that we need to reduce the consumption of added sugars in our food. Artificial sweeteners are considered safe for consumption on the basis of what we now know and can be an alternative.
Shop shelves today are full of sugary food products that try to tempt us with beautiful packaging and screaming texts. Once a bite or a drink and we do not know how to keep a size.
Excessive amounts of sugar have various adverse effects on our body, and studies show that it can lead to everything from tooth decay to increase cardiovascular risk factors.
The real problem, however, is that we have been eating substantial amounts of these high-sugar foods as a regular part of our daily diet.
Although added sugars in the 20th century were a rare treat and caused few health problems, they are now present everywhere in our food. And overweight in children is becoming a bigger problem.
Why do many people still have such difficulty with allowing sugar-rich products?
From the first bite, sugar sends a signal to the brain and the reward system is activated. The most important chemical substance involved in this biological reward system is dopamine.
The problem with sugar and lots of junk food is that they can cause massive dopamine release. Much more than our brains have ever been exposed to food in nature.
For this reason, we can be very sensitive to eating and drinking sugars. The pleasure you have after eating a sweet treat makes it hard for many people to stop.
As part of a healthy diet, you should consume fewer foods and drinks that contain added sugars.
Many foods that contain added sugars also have a lot of calories and few healthy nutrients. Regular eating of these sugary foods can contribute to the development of overweight. Overweight can increase the risk of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
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