The Perils of Sugar

The overconsumption of sweet stuff has ruined our eating habits and contributed to obesity and other major health problems.

Sugar may provide calories for energy, but it has no nutritional value and over consumption can be harmful to your health. Hundreds of studies clearly show how dangerous (and even deadly, in the case of diabetics) its effects can be. Diets high in sugar and other refined carbohydrates radically increase the body’s production of insulin; and insulin is the best single index of adiposity, medical jargon for fat. But that’s just the beginning of the health perils associated with sugar. Consider these frightening facts and you’ll probably pitch your sugar bowl and half the foods in your pantry into the trash can:

  • The consumption of sugar-laden soft drinks, fruit juice and sports drinks has increased by 500 percent in the United States over the past 50 years. One of every four beverages consumed in the U.S. today is a soft drink. Increased intake of soft drinks may increase the risk of tooth decay and the erosion of tooth enamel1,2.
  • The number of small children—to whom junk-food companies aggressively market their products—who are overweight has doubled since 1980; the incidence among adolescents has tripled in the same period3.
  • Type 2 diabetes has increased dramatically in children in recent years. In one study of Caucasian and African American youngsters aged 10 to 19, Type 2 accounted for 33 percent of all diabetes cases4.
  • The Surgeon General estimates that public-health costs attributable to overweight and obesity now total about $117 billion a year—fast approaching the $140 billion attributed to smoking5.
  • According to the USDA, people who eat diets high in sugar get less calcium, fiber, folate, zinc, magnesium, iron and vitamins A, C and E and other nutrients than people who do not consume much sugar. The high-sugar crowd also consumes fewer fruits and vegetables6.
  • By displacing protective nutrients and foods in the diet, added sugars may increase the risk of osteoporosis, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems7,8.
  • Sugar can accelerate the aging process9.
  • Excess sugar consumption may make people more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes10.
  • Sugar has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease11; women who consumed diets with a high glycemic load (associated with intake of sweets or highly processed starches and sweets) showed an increased risk of cardiovascular disease12.
  • Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is brought on by years of eating too many refined and sugary foods. Though often associated with diabetics, it is estimated that 10 to 25 percent of non-diabetics are unable to properly metabolize sugar13.
  • Women tend to crave sugar before the onset of their menstrual period, but removing sugar from their diets has been shown to minimize PMS symptoms, including anxiety and depression14.

Selected References:

  1. American Dental Association News Release, February 2002.
  2. Navia, J.M., “Carbohydrates and Dental Health,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 1994; 59(3S), pages 719S-727S.
  3. Ogden, C.L., Flegal, K.M., Carroll, M.D. et al., “Prevalence and Trends in Overweight Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 1999-2000,” Journal of the American Medical Association, October 9, 2002; 288(14), pages 1728-1732.
  4. Fagot-Campagna, A., Pettitt, D.J., Engelgau, M.M. et al., “Type 2 Diabetes Among North American Children and Adolescents: An Epidemiologic Review and a Public Health Perspective,” Journal of Pediatrics, May 2000, 136(5), pages 664-672.
  5. “Is Fat The Next Tobacco?” Fortune, New York, NY, February 3, 2003.
  7. 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, September 4, 2002; 94(17), pages 1293-1300.
  8. 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, August 2004; 13(8), pages 1283-1289.
  9. 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, January 1991; 16(1), pages 1-9.
  10. Schulze, M.B., Manson, J.E., Ludwig, D.S., et al., “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in Young and Middle-Aged Women,” Journal of the American Medical Association, August 25, 2004; 292(8), pages 927-934.
  11. Fried, S.K. and Rao, ESP., “Sugars, Hypertriglyceridemia, and Cardiovascular Disease,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78(4), 2003, pages 873S-880S.
  12. Liu, S., Manson, J.E., Buring, J.E., et al., “Relation Between a Diet with a High Glycemic Load and Plasma Concentrations of High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein in Middle-Aged Women,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2002;75(3), pages 492-498.
  13. Hypoglycemia: The Other Sugar Disease, 2003.
  14. The American Medical Women’s Association Women’s Complete Healthbook, 1995

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