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How Sugar Ruins Good Health

Karen Singer
Karen Singer

Sugar. Americans love it. And our devotion to the sweet stuff becomes evident when we take a close look at the health of our nation. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and kidney and liver problems are being diagnosed in epidemic proportions, and they’re affecting younger ages than we’ve ever seen.  

You probably already know about these long-term consequences of sugar consumption. But did you know that sugar’s adverse effects begin as soon as you put it in your mouth? 

Here’s a play-by-play of sugar’s immediate effects, which should provide even more motivation for avoiding this sweetener—especially if you’re following a type 2 diabetes diet

Victim #1: Your Teeth 

There’s a reason why your dentist warns you over and over again to avoid sugary drinks and snacks, especially sticky candies. 

The second sugar passes your lips, it comes into contact with the naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth. This intermingling forms a destructive acid that erodes the enamel on your teeth. 

Once that enamel goes, it’s fertile ground for cavities, gum disease, and in severe cases tooth loss.  

Victim #2: Your Blood Sugar

Once you swallow your sugary indulgence, it travels down your throat, through your stomach, and into your small intestine, where it is further broken down and absorbed into your bloodstream.

This signals specialized cells in your pancreas to release the hormone insulin, which escorts blood sugar into cells throughout your body. With a healthy, low-sugar, whole foods-based diet, this is an easy task. But if the pancreas must churn out extra insulin to process a chocolate bar and soft drink, there is an inevitable excess of both insulin and blood sugar. This not only stresses the pancreas but also results in elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance

Victim #3: Your Energy and Mood 

Beginning as early as half an hour to 45 minutes and up to four hours after eating a lot of sugar, you experience the “crash”—a major drop in blood sugar. This is when you may start to feel tired, irritable, fatigued, inattentive, and unfocused—like you want to lie down and take a nap.

Because your brain depends on a steady supply of energy, you may also feel ravenous hunger. So what do you reach for? A soda, granola bar, or other sugary snack that rapidly drives blood sugar back up. Then the cycle starts all over again. 

Victim #4: Your Immune System

Sugar also impairs your white blood cells’ ability to engulf bacteria and other microbes. In this vulnerable state, your body is more prone to colds, flu, and other illnesses and infections. 

Studies show that reduced immunity peaks about two hours after eating excessive sugar and can last for several hours as your body slowly regains balance.

Not Worth the Indulgence

Even though these processes take place every time you overeat sugar, occasional indulgences won’t cause any permanent problems. But remember—most Americans don’t indulge their sweet tooth occasionally. They indulge it multiple times a day. And this chaotic, never-ending roller coaster increases your risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and other serious health problems. 

In the end, the few minutes of enjoyment you get from a candy bar or a can of soda lead to a whole host of potential problems. It’s just not worth it. 

Everyone, but especially those following a type 2 diabetes diet, should limit or avoid sugar as much as possible. If you do need to use a sweetener, choose stevia, a natural alternative that does not cause spikes in blood sugar. 

Admittedly, giving up sugar is hard. It’s addictive…studies say as addictive as some of the most notorious drugs out there. But removing it from your diet has no downsides, and countless benefits. 

10 Secrets to Beat High Blood Sugar and Diabetes

It’s never too late! These proven tips can help you get off the “sugary slope” and keep your blood sugar balanced, for good. (You won’t believe secret #6!)

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