Attention all New Year’s Resolutioners: it’s time to admit that sugar is ruining your life.
Americans are victim to the greatest nutritional hoax of the century – the low-fat diet. Everything we eat is made up of the 3 major macronutrients: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. So what happens when you eliminate fats from your diet is that you will invariably increase your consumption of carbs. And that’s exactly what the statistics have shown. After the 1980 shift away from fats in compliance with the new (sugar industry-sponsored) dietary guidelines, obesity rates skyrocketed. We replaced okay-for-you fats like steak and nuts with pasta, margarine, breads, and low-fat milk – and it is literally killing us. But that’s not all sugar does. Here are some serious reasons to come off the white stuff:
Lower Risk for Obesity
In 1950, 12% of Americans were obese. By 2000, 35% of people in the US were obese, despite the 1980 nutritional guidelines warning against saturated fats and cholesterol. This is due in large part to carbohydrates becoming a much greater percentage of people’s diet, and simple sugars are mostly to blame.
Increased Energy Levels
The reason you feel sluggish after a sugar-rich lunch is because sugar decreases activity in your body’s orexin cells. These cells keep our metabolism running smoothly and help keep us awake throughout the day. Less sugar = a more productive day.
Beat the Addiction
Sugar is a drug, plain and simple, and affects the brain in a way similar to that of cocaine or heroine. When sugar is absorbed in the body, we release our happy reward chemical, dopamine. The more we stimulate this reaction, the more sugar we need to get the same effect, and so on. Over-consumption of sugar also triggers the production of ghrelin, which is the hormone responsible for letting you know it’s time to eat. This feedback loop is partially to blame for why we feel insatiable around the sugar-laced holiday season.
Lowering your sugar-intake can help your skin stay young and beautiful. Sugar in your body attaches to proteins, forming what are known as AGEs, or, advanced glycation end products. Over time, AGEs break down collagen and elastin fibers and reduce antioxidant enzymes that help protect your skin from sun damage. If that wasn’t convincing enough for you younger folks, keep in mind that foods high in sugar can also stimulate changes in hormonal activity, augmenting the severity of acne and increasing your risk of developing psoriasis.
Lower Blood Sugar
Okay, this one is obvious, but why is it important? Daily consumption of sugary drinks increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 26%, which is what happens when you’ve consumed so much sugar that your glucose-receiving cells becomes resistant – and eventually intolerant – to insulin.
Decreased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Added sugars can lead to obesity, which increases your risk for developing high blood pressure. Higher blood pressure increases the workload on the entire circulatory system, raising the chances of heart disease, kidney damage, heart attack, and stroke. In fact, studies show that if a quarter or more of your calories comes from added sugar, you are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Yikes!
High sugar consumption can deplete proteins necessary for memory and overall cognitive functioning. High glucose levels can lead to metabolic syndrome, a variety of conditions associated with loss of such functioning in addition to changes in brain structure. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.
Your Mouth Says Thanks
You might already know sugar wears away tooth enamel, which can cause cavities and gum disease. Glucose is also a hearty food source for bacteria, which reproduce at warp speed in your mouth, manifesting as plaque, tonsil stones, and bad breath.
A diet low in sugar is its own anti-depressant. Over-consuming sugary beverages can increase your likelihood of being diagnosed with depression by about 30%, studies show. When glucose levels in your body spike so does your mood, which doesn’t last long before you “crash.” What’s more, your brain responds negatively to any developing resistance to insulin, leading to mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
But mood isn’t the only mental health issue: high-sugar diets hamper the production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which helps with the formation of new memories. Depleted levels of this chemical are directly linked to such diseases as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
TLDR: Don’t assume that because you’re college-aged and physically active that sugary diets won’t negatively impact your life. Added sugar hurts your mood, messes with your skin, and makes you feel tired and hungry all day long. Do yourself a favor and kick simple carbs to the curb.