Is Sugar Making You Sick?
There are numerous reasons to reconsider our relationship with sugar.
The most common negative health symptoms caused by excess sugar are:
- Sleep problems
- Fatigue and low energy
- Brain fog
- Increased anxiety and stress
- Irritability and mood swings
- Digestive issues
- Joint pain
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Acne and wrinkles
- Dental cavities
Regular excess sugar consumption also increases the long-term risk of serious, possibly fatal, health problems.
According to a study published in November 2016 in the journal Nutrients, consuming too much added sugar has been linked to obesity, risk factors for heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cancer.
How much sugar should I eat?
There is no minimum amount of sugar that humans need to eat each day for good health.
Instead, the American Heart Association (AHA) has set the maximum amount of added sugars adults should eat in a day as:
- Men: 36 grams (9 teaspoons)
- Women: 25 grams (6 teaspoons)
The average American adult gets about 17 teaspoons of sugar every day. That’s nearly double the limit for men and triple the limit for women!!
Almost half of the added sugar in the American diet comes from sugary drinks. In fact, one 12-oz can of Coke contains 39 grams of added sugar!
The AHA’s guidelines on maximum daily added sugars go even further for children:
- Children over 2 years: 25 grams (6 teaspoons)
- No more than one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage per week
- Babies & Toddlers under 2 years: 0 grams
I can think of countless foods marketed for babies and toddlers that would need to be eliminated completely for parents to truly follow this recommendation.
Gerber Puffs cereal snacks, Gerber Teethers, children’s breakfast cereals, kids’ yogurt, animal crackers, yogurt covered raisins, and fruit snacks are just a few that come to mind.
Many popular infant formulas and children’s supplements also contain added sugar. And the list goes on…
Where is sugar found?
Added sugars are found in far more than just desserts.
Sugar is added to many common premade and processed foods including beverages, sauces, yogurt, soups, granola, flavored oatmeal, and salad dressings.
Does fruit count as added sugar?
The naturally occurring sugars in fresh or frozen whole fruit do not contribute to your daily total of added sugars, as defined by the AHA.
Processed forms of fruit where sugar is added and/or the fiber is removed do count as added sugars. Examples of this would be fruit juice, canned fruit in syrup, fruit snacks, etc.
Simply put, if it comes with a nutrition label, then any added sugars contribute to your daily total. That’s one reason why buying food that comes straight from nature is healthier and easier – no labels to read!
The best way to find out how much sugar you and your kids are eating is to read the nutrition label. This applies to all premade and packaged foods and drinks.
Common types of sugars to look for in the ingredient list:
- refined white sugar
- cane sugar
- brown sugar
- raw sugar
- invert sugar
- malt sugar
- coconut sugar
- refiner’s syrup
- maple syrup
- agave nectar
- corn syrup
- high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- corn sweetener
- fruit juice concentrates
- sugar molecules ending in “ose,” such as fructose, glucose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose
These are just a few of the 50 types of sugar.
Many restaurants now offer nutrition information about their products online now as well.
Even if you understand the health problems that sugar causes and are aware of where it hides, you may find the process of reducing your sugar intake very difficult.
All people are wired to crave sugar.
Sugar is one of the hardest addictions to break. In fact, research on rats indicates that sugar may be even more addictive than opioid drugs such as cocaine. Withdrawal symptoms, including depression and mood swings, may even occur when people try cutting out sugar completely.
So what’s to blame for sugar’s addictiveness? It’s not just it’s delicious flavor.
Humans are biologically hard-wired to desire sugar (the same is true for salt). From an evolutionary standpoint, this was a necessary survival trait.
Sugar is a high calorie food that quickly converts to body fat. This extra store of body fat helped early humans survive the long, harsh winters when food was scarce.
Across most of human history, our sugar intake consisted only of fruit and the very occasional sugared treat. Now, opportunities for candy, sweetened drinks, and sugar-filled processed foods are everywhere. They line every grocery store aisle and are available at home, work, school, and social events.
Diets, cleanses, and gym memberships top many people’s New Year’s resolutions each year. But one of the most challenging ones is reducing our sugar intake. Our nonstop sugar-fueled holiday season only makes those cravings stronger.
Fortunately, it is possible to stop your sugar cravings without an extreme cleanse or fad diet.
American Heart Association. (2020). How Too Much Added Sugar Affects Your Health Infographic. www.heart.org. Retrieved November 13, 2021, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/how-too-much-added-sugar-affects-your-health-infographic.
Jenco, M. (2016, August 23). AHA: Limit children’s sugar consumption to 6 teaspoons per day. American Academy of Pediatrics News. Retrieved November 13, 2021, from https://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/08/23/Sugar082316%29.
Kroen, G. C. (2011, September 26). Kids’ Sugar Cravings Might Be Biological. NPR. Retrieved November 13, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2011/09/26/140753048/kids-sugar-cravings-might-be-biological.
Ramsay Healthcare. (2017, September 20). Is Sugar More Addictive Than Cocaine. New Hall Hospital. Retrieved November 13, 2021, from https://www.newhallhospital.co.uk/news/is-sugar-more-addictive-than-cocaine.
Revelant, J. (2021, March 30). 12 Potential Signs You’re Eating Too Much Sugar. EverydayHealth.com. Retrieved November 13, 2021, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/potential-signs-youre-eating-too-much-sugar/.
The Effects of Sugar Overload & Eating Too Much Sugar. Complete Care. (2020, November 12). Retrieved November 13, 2021, from https://www.visitcompletecare.com/blog/the-effects-of-sugar-overload-eating-too-much-sugar/.
USDA. (2020, December). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 PDF. Dietary Guidelines. Retrieved November 13, 2021, from https://dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This blog post is general information only and is not to be substituted for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.