Sugar harm to the body
The exclusion of sugar from the diet is the first rule of a healthy diet. However, how exactly does white sugar harm the human body and why is this “dangerous” substance available for sale? The answer is simple - despite the fact that regular consumption of sugar in large doses does have a negative effect on metabolism, sugar itself is not a poison or a carcinogen.
At the same time, the harm of sugar does not lie in its high calorie content - in fact, sweets cause physical and psychological dependence, giving pleasure when consumed and provoking a depressed state when trying to refuse. In addition, sugar, just like other fast carbohydrates , does not at all satisfy hunger, but only kindles it, forcing a person to overeat and gain weight.
The effect of sugar on the brain
The direct and indirect health effects of sugar must be distinguished. Modern scientific studies suggest that the direct use of sugar can only harm tooth enamel (increasing the risk of caries) (1) and the microflora of the gastrointestinal tract (provoking putrefactive processes in the stomach and impairing the absorption of a number of B vitamins) (2) .
An indirect harm to sugar can be considered that this substance directly affects the functioning of the brain (provoking the production of pleasure hormones when consumed and a feeling of depression when trying to exclude sugar from the diet), as well as the level of glucose and insulin in the blood. In addition, it is no secret that white sugar is the main cause of the development of type 2 diabetes .
Studies suggest that the human brain considers the sweet taste “encouraging” - in fact, high blood glucose levels stimulate the production of hormones that improve mood and well-being. That is why both children and adults like sweets, chocolate or ice cream - people literally enjoy sugar.
The difficulty lies in the fact that this effect is achieved only for a short period of time, followed by not only a sharp decline in the level of serotonin and other hormones of joy, but also a general decline in strength - which makes a person again reach for sweets. In fact, this mechanism of dependence formation is typical both for sugar and for nicotine and alcohol.
Sugar and Metabolism
It is also interesting that for almost the entire history of mankind, products with a pronounced sweet taste were considered rare delicacies - it is a mistake to assume that fruits, sweets and honey were readily available. Only in modern society is sugar considered something typical and extremely cheap, while our ancestors consumed substantially less sugar.
Pure sugar itself does not occur at all in nature - it is usually associated with fiber that balances its action (as is the case with fruits). In fact, white sugar is a sufficiently “new” substance for the brain and human metabolism - and that is why regular and excessive consumption of sugar can cause complex harm to the body.
The maximum daily dose of sugar
Nutritionists say that sugar and other sources of fast carbohydrates should account for no more than 5-10% of the total calorie intake per day (about 100-250 kcal) (3) . In terms of grams of sugar, this is equivalent to 25-60 g - however, this number includes not only white table sugar, but also sugar from baked goods and other desserts, as well as fructose from sweet fruits.
At the same time, one can of cola , a bottle of sports isotonic, or a large glass of freshly squeezed juice contain 20-25 g of sugar - almost completely covering the daily intake. Often, people who love sweets consume significantly more sugar than 60 g per day - and the result is a gradual violation of the mechanism of insulin production and the development of obesity.
Safe sugar substitution
Unfortunately, the problem of sugar damage to health only partially lies in sugar itself - by and large, we are talking about dependence on sweet taste. Replacing sugar with sugar substitutes, a person reduces calorie intake - however, the brain receives a signal about the use of sweets and these calories await. If calories do not come, appetite is activated, forcing to begin the search for food.
Along with the formation of a dependence on a sweet taste, other taste preferences change - the usual taste of vegetables and cereals begins to seem too fresh. That is why scientific research suggests that refusing sugar and switching to sugar substitutes almost never leads to weight loss - in the end, a person begins to get carbohydrates from other products.
Is sugar harm reversible?
The problem with sugar refusal is that you need to limit not only white table sugar, but also a whole category of “unhealthy” foods containing sugar as an ingredient — including baked goods, chocolate, sweets, desserts, ice cream, fruit juices, and even most types of sauces (e.g. ketchup made with a substantial amount of sugar added).
The good news is that restricting sugar and switching to proper nutrition will gradually normalize your metabolism and return your metabolism to normal (especially in combination with physical training). Both type 2 diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol can be practically “neutralized” if you refuse sugar, fast carbohydrates and other unhealthy foods.
The harm of sugar does not lie in its high calorie content or in the increased risk of tooth decay, but in the fact that sugar in a complex way negatively affects a person’s metabolism (including the ability of the body to produce an adequate amount of insulin) and leads to the formation of dependence on sweets. At the same time, replacing white sugar with sweeteners does not solve the problem.
Scientific sources :
- Sugar Research Advisory Service: The role of sugar in dental health, source
- Vitamins and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, source
- World Heath Organization: Reducing free sugars intake in children and adults, source