10 Reasons Why Sugar is Bad for Your Health

Effects of Sugar on the Body: Symptoms & Side Effects of Too Much Sugar

The cornerstone of the Atkins lifestyle is limiting carbs—the compounds that make up the sugars in foods. But why is that sugar bad for you? We’re letting you in on some of the secrets behind the effects of carbohydrates that convert to sugar in the body.

1. Sugar Causes Glucose Levels to Spike and Plummet

Unstable blood sugar can leave you experiencing mood swings, fatigue, and headaches. 1 Similarly, research shows that those who eat a diet rich in added sugars or refined carbohydrates tend to have higher rates of mood disorders. 2 Other studies have found that consuming a diet that keeps blood sugar levels stable can improve mood and energy levels. 3

2. Sugar Increases the Risk of Obesity, Diabetes, and Heart Disease

While we all like to indulge once in a while, foods that quickly affect blood sugar contribute to a greater risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.1 Emerging research also suggests connections between these high-glycemic diets and various forms of cancer.2,3,4 These effects are often a result of added sugars working in your body, so be sure to read those nutrition labels.

3. Your Immune Function Can Be Affected by Sugar

As if being sick wasn’t bad enough, studies have shown that sugar can interfere with the way your body fights disease.5 Bacteria and yeast feed on sugar, so excess glucose in the body causes these organisms to build up and cause infections. 4

4. A High-Sugar Diet Can Lead to Chromium Deficiency

Chromium, a trace mineral, helps regulate blood sugar in the body. 5 While it can be found in meats, seafood, and plant foods, 90% of Americans still don’t get enough chromium because of refining starches.6 Other carbohydrates can also rob foods of their chromium supplies, so limiting your carbs is your best bet for increasing those mineral levels.

5. Sugar Accelerates Aging

While you probably know that sugars can affect your body composition, they can also mess with your skin by contributing to wrinkles and sagging. After sugar hits your bloodstream, it attaches to proteins. The mix of these proteins with sugar causes the skin to lose elasticity and leads to premature aging.7

6. Sugar Causes Tooth Decay

With all the other life-threatening effects of sugar, we sometimes forget the most basic cosmetic damage it does. When it sits on your teeth, sugar causes decay more efficiently than any other food.8 It’s important to brush your teeth at least twice a day to stop sugars from fueling plaque and bacteria.

7. Sugar Can Cause Gum Disease, Which Can Lead to Heart Disease

Increasing evidence shows that chronic infections, like those that result from dental problems, play a role in the development of heart disease.9 Most researchers believe that the connection stems from the body’s inflammatory response to infection. Luckily, this works both ways. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will decrease your risk of common illnesses, which reduces the chance that they’ll become a more serious condition later on.

8. Sugar Affects Cognition in Children

Let’s not forget about our little ones! When New York City public schools reduced the amount of sugar in their lunches and breakfasts, their academic ranking increased 15.7% (previously, the greatest improvement ever seen had been 1.7%).10 The study also eliminated artificial colors, synthetic flavoring, and two preservatives, showing the importance of natural ingredients for children.

9. Sugar Increases Stress

When we’re under stress, our bodies immediately kick into fight-or-flight mode, releasing large amounts of hormones. Surprisingly, the body has the same chemical response when blood sugar is low. After you eat a sweet snack, stress hormones begin to compensate for the crash by raising your blood sugar. 6 The result? Unexplained anxiousness, irritability, and even shakiness.

10. Sugar Takes the Place of Important Nutrients

According to public health experts, consuming empty calories from added sugars makes it difficult to consume adequate amounts of other nutrients. 7 One study of USDA data found that people who consume the most sugar have the lowest intakes of essential nutrients—especially vitamins A, C, B-12, and calcium. 8 The trade-off is especially dangerous for children and teens, who simultaneously consume the most sugar and need the most nutrients.11

Now that you understand the negative effects of sugar on your body and mind, it’s time to be more careful when choosing foods. The first step is getting educated about how to find added sugars. When it comes to convenience and packaged foods, let the ingredients label be your guide—you’d be surprised how many low carb or “diet” foods contain added sugar.

Register with Atkins today for access to hundreds of recipes, meals, and products free of added sugars.

Selected References
1. Bell, S.J., Sears, B., “Low-glycemic-load diets: impact on obesity and chronic diseases.” Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, 43(4), 2003, pages 357-77.

2. Michaud, D.S., Liu, S., Giovannucci, E., et al., “Dietary Sugar, Glycemic Load, and Pancreatic Cancer Risk in a Prospective Study.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 94(17), 2002, pages 1293-1300.

3. Romieu, I., Lazcano-Ponce, E., Sanchez-Zamorano, L.M., et al., “Carbohydrates and the Risk of Breast Cancer Among Mexican Women.” Cancer Epidemiology and Biomarkers Preview, 13(8), 2004, pages 1283-1289.

4. Franceschi, S., Dal Maso, L., Augustin, L., et al., “Dietary Glycemic Load and Colorectal Cancer Risk.” Annals of Oncology, 12(2), 2001, pages 173-178.

5. Nutter, R.L., Gridley, D.S., Kettering, J.D., et al., “Modification of a transplantable colon tumor and immune responses in mice fed different sources of protein, fat and carbohydrate.” Cancer Letters, 18(1), 1983, pages 49-62.

6. “Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc.” Institute of Medicine, Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, 2001.

7. Sensi, M., Pricci, F., Andreani, D., et al., “Advanced Nonenzymatic Glycation Endproducts (AGE): Their Relevance to Aging and the Pathogenesis of Late Diabetic Complications.” Diabetes Research, 16(1), 1991, pages 1-9.

8. “Dental Caries and Its Complications: Tooth Decay.” In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, edited by Robert Berkow, et al. Rahway, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 1992.

9. Geerts, S.O., Legrand, V., Charpentier, J., et al. “Further evidence of the association between periodontal conditions and coronary artery disease.” Journal of Periodontology, 75(9), 2004, pages 1274-80.

10. Schoenthaler, S.J., Doraz, W.E., Wakefield, J.A., “The Impact of a Low Food Additive and Sucrose Diet on Academic Performance in 803 New York City Public Schools.” International Journal of Biosocial Research, 8(2), 1986, pages 185-195.

11. Bowman, S.A., “Diets of Individuals Based on Energy Intakes From Added Sugars.” Family Economics and Nutrition Review, 12(2), 1999, pages 31-38.

Further Reading
Healthline, 2018: What Does It Mean to Have Dysglycemia and How’s It Treated?

When blood sugar drops, your liver breaks down glycogen into glucose, and releases it into your bloodstream. This helps your body to maintain relatively stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Evidence Based
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine, 2002: A cross-national relationship between sugar consumption and major depression?

We have preliminarily investigated the hypothesis that sugar consumption may impact the prevalence of major depression by correlating per capita consumption of sugar with the prevalence of major depression.

Evidence Based
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine, 2016: Subjective Mood and Energy Levels of Healthy Weight and Overweight/Obese Healthy Adults on High-and Low-Glycemic Load Experimental Diets

Emerging evidence suggests a positive association of diet and obesity with depression. Researchers have examined several diet-mood hypotheses, including investigating the extent to which carbohydrates may impact mood. There is limited research on how glycemic load, a characteristic of carbohydrates, impacts mood in healthy adults…

Evidence Based
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine,
2021: The Interplay Between Sugar and Yeast Infections: Do Diabetics Have a Greater Predisposition to Develop Oral and Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is one of the most common chronic diseases impacting individuals of both developing and developed nations. DM patients have a weaker immune system in comparison to healthy subjects, rendering them more prone to develop infections…

Further Reading
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine,
2012: Molecular mechanisms of chromium in alleviating insulin resistance

Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity, dyslipidemia and cardiovascular anomalies and is a major health problem approaching global epidemic proportions. Insulin resistance, a prediabetic condition, precedes the onset of frank type 2 diabetes and offers potential avenues for early intervention to treat the disease…

Evidence Based
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine,
1982: Diurnal cortisol peaks and their relationships to meals

Relationships between diurnal plasma cortisol peaks and meals were evaluated for 30 male subjects divided into 5 groups. At 1300 h, at the time of a slow increase of plasma cortisol in fasting subjects, a reproducible rapidly increasing meal-related peak appeared in all subjects studied. An identical meal at 2000 h led to a lower mean response, with larger interindividual variations…

Further Reading
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
2016: Learn how to limit calories from added sugars—and still enjoy the foods and drinks that you love.
Choosing a healthy eating pattern low in added sugars can have important health benefits.

What Are Added Sugars?
Just like it sounds, added sugars aren’t in foods naturally—they’re added.
They include:… Eating and drinking too many foods and beverages with added sugars makes
it difficult to achieve a healthy eating pattern without taking in too many
calories. Added sugars contribute calories, but no essential nutrients.

Further Reading
PubMed Central, National Library of Medicine,
2001: Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars: the 2000 dietary guidelines for Americans–what’s all the fuss about?

As part of the 2000 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the public is advised to choose beverages and foods to moderate their intake of sugars. The term sugars is conventionally used to describe the mono- and disaccharides. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans distinguish between added sugars and other sources of carbohydrates…

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