Everyone knows that too much sugar is bad for you. But without sitting down and tracking exactly how much sugar you’re eating, it can be difficult to know whether you need to cut down. Fortunately, there are some clear warning signs your body will send to try to alert you, from muscle pains to mood swings.
10. Skin problems
If you find yourself constantly fighting acne and other skin irritations, you may want to try cutting down on your sugar intake – or at least simple carbohydrates, which your body breaks down into glucose at a faster rate than it does complex carbohydrates. And the quicker that happens, the more your level of insulin will rise.
Once your insulin levels spike, your body triggers enzymes that can affect your skin’s cells, causing the likes of wrinkles, sagging skin and acne. It’s best to avoid foods such as candy, ice cream, white bread, pizza and soda then. Instead, focus on including complex carbs such as nuts, vegetables, whole grains and brown rice in your diet.
9. Muscle and joint problems
The inflammation caused by insulin spikes doesn’t just affect your skin though. Indeed, it can also affect your muscles and joints, resulting in pain and discomfort. And as you get older, those problems are exacerbated if your diet is high in sugar, thanks to a process known as glycation that can damage your cells.
Meanwhile, excess sugar consumption can affect the levels of potassium, magnesium and calcium in your body. These minerals are essential to the health of your cells, but also in your muscles functioning properly. Without them, you may find yourself experiencing severe muscle pain and cramps.
8. Weight gain
For years, the food industry and the media have decried fats as bad for us and making us, well, fat. But new studies have found that it’s actually sugar that’s to blame for rising obesity levels. That’s because added sugars are hidden in all sorts of food and drink we normally wouldn’t think twice about consuming, such as ketchup, crackers and canned food.
Those added sugars are normally sucrose, which your body breaks down into glucose and fructose. The latter of those is what gets converted into fat, and it’s a vicious cycle, because it actually leaves you even hungrier, meaning your calorie intake will go up. It’s easy to see, then, how those added sugars can cause you to pile on the pounds.
7. Energy fluctuations
If you’re familiar with the post-lunch lull, then you’ve experienced what’s probably more accurately described as a “carb crash.” That’s because when you eat simple carbs, your blood sugar spikes – and what goes up, must come down. So a lunch full of potatoes, bread or pasta will give you a quick sugar high, but leave you feeling sleepy very soon.
This isn’t just a midday phenomenon, however. Indeed, there’s also such a thing as a “sugar hangover.” If you consume loads of sugar in one go, say, just before bed, then the next morning you’re going to experience similar symptoms to that of an alcohol-induced hangover – fatigue, irritability and headaches, for instance.
We all know eating too much sugar can damage our teeth. But what you may not know is the exact science behind it. When you eat sugar, certain bacteria that are present in your mouth begin producing acid that strips away the minerals in your enamel. At first, your saliva will help fix the enamel, aided by the fluoride in your toothpaste.
However, when you consume too much sugar, and repeatedly allow this acid to attack your teeth, you’ll end up with a cavity – that is, a hole in your tooth. And if you don’t do something about it, then you could even end up losing the tooth.
Have you ever felt bloated after a meal, or suffered from indigestion, acid reflux or heartburn? It may have something to do with the amount of sugar in whatever you’ve just eaten. Indeed, a meal that’s high in sugar can build up the mucous membrane in your stomach, causing indigestion.
Simple carbs and sucrose, meanwhile, can increase the acidity in your gut, thanks to the way your pancreas works. If it can’t produce enough enzymes to break down the quantity of sugar you’re eating, the bacteria levels in your intestines will become unbalanced. And if that happens, your body won’t be able to properly absorb nutrients, again leading to indigestion.
4. Affects your mood
In 2017 the results of a 22-year-long study were published – and suggested there may in fact be a link between sugar consumption and depression, at least in men. And while correlation between men who ate more sugar and those more likely to be depressed doesn’t necessarily imply causation, there is a scientific basis for that conclusion.
Indeed, studies have found that excess sugar can upset the balance of chemicals in our brains, leading to a higher chance of suffering from anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, those who use sugar as instant gratification – a quick “sugar high” – will find themselves trapped in a cycle of addiction, feeling constantly irritable and fatigued.
3. A weakened immune system
It isn’t just your brain that feels sleepy when coming down from a sugar high. Indeed, your cells will also be feeling the crash. And if they’re not awake and doing their job properly – that is, fighting bacteria – it means your body will be more vulnerable to viruses and infection. Put simply, your immune system is weakened.
The reason your diet affects your immune system so much is that much of it resides directly within your digestive tract. So because the food you eat can have a large impact on the bacteria in your gut, consuming too much sugar can have adverse effects on your body’s ability to fight off bad bacteria.
2. Affects your sleep
If you’ve chugged a can of Coca-Cola right before bed, then it’s probably going to take you a while to drift off. No surprises there. But a high-sugar diet during the day can also disrupt your sleeping pattern once you have eventually slipped into a blissful slumber. Indeed, a 2016 study found that more sugar meant more sleep arousals.
You don’t actually wake up during a sleep arousal. You’re just pulled into a lighter sleep – but you’ll definitely feel it in the morning. These sleep arousals occur because sugars and simple carbs, such as pasta and bread, slow down the release of melatonin – a hormone responsible for helping you drift into a deep sleep.
1. Difficulty concentrating
The insulin spikes that occur after eating a lot of sugar have many different effects on your body. But at the root of them is the inability to concentrate properly. That’s not just because feeling sleepy naturally makes you less alert either.
Yes, there’s actually a scientific reason too much sugar can affect your concentration. When sugar enters your body, some of it will be funneled into brain cells. When you crash and your blood sugar drops rapidly, the dramatic change can cloud your thinking and impair your memory – hindering your concentration.