By Salma Awwad
Digging into the sugar archives, we unravel countless scary side-effects of your seemingly harmless treats
As we dig into the sugar archives, we unravel countless scary side effects that have been buried by the sugar lobby in their efforts to sell an ever inflated quantity of processed food and added sweeteners.
Hidden under a cloak of carefully worded labels on packaged food items, high fructose corn syrup quantities can vary significantly from the actual contents disclosed.
We associate sugar with comfort, happiness and moments of celebration, and indeed, our brain is wired to embrace the sweet melancholy of this addictive treat through the release of dopamine in our brain’s nucleus accumbens ( the area triggered by reward and motivation.)
But little do we know that this unassuming boost is actually poisoning our body, attacking our organs and triggering a viscous cycle of consumption:
1. Addiction: Although there are different schools of thought on whether "food addiction" is a real thing, there's recently been an increasing amount of research indicating that the disorder might be possible in humans. Currently, concrete evidence through studies show that rats can become dependent on sugar.
Nicole Avena, Ph.D., a Princeton researcher has shown that rats deprived of food for 12 hours and then given sucrose added to their regular food on a regular basis showed signs of bingeing, and a relentless search for the sucrose. These effects continued even after the sucrose had been withdrawn for one month. Withdrawal symptoms included both anxiety and increased aggression.
2. Unique fat-promoting effects: Not all calories are created equal. Fructose does not make you feel full after meals and it doesn’t reduce blood flow in the centres of the brain that control appetite. This in turn increases overall food intake and can cause significant weight gain. Dr David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner who was featured in the documentary “Fed Up”, goes one step further, predicting that the obesity crisis fuelled by sugar will end up as "one of the greatest public health epidemics of our time".
3. Sugar can increase your chances of depression: Eating sugar and processed carbs can give you a temporary mood boost but overloading your system has the reverse effect. Too much dopamine delivered to the brain through sugar can cause uncontrolled movements such as tremors and jerking, which leads to restlessness and frustration. In addition, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine found a correlation between sugar consumption and the annual rate of depression in six countries.
4. Nutritional deficiencies: You’ve probably heard this a million times before… added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) contain a whole bunch of calories with absolutely zero essential nutrients. This is why they are called “empty” calories. In a 1999 study, researchers from the Department of Agriculture found that when people got 18 percent or more of their calories from sugar, they had the lowest levels of vitamins and nutrients, such as folate, calcium, iron, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
5. Cavities and tooth decay: If you're scarfing down lots of excess sugar you are creating a perfect environment for harmful bacteria to build-up in your mouth. The connection between sugar and cavities has been established for decades. "Tooth decay occurs when the bacteria that line the teeth feed on simple sugars, creating acid that destroys enamel," explains Anahad O'Connor at the New York Times. Because acid is a key culprit, sour candies are especially nefarious.
6. Risk of Diabetes: A recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care examined more than 310,000 patients and found that those who drank 1 to 2 servings of the sweetened drinks a day were 26 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who drank it once a month or not at all. In addition, the University of California, San Francisco, researchers estimated that 130,000 new cases of diabetes between 1990 and 2000 can be attributed to the increase in Americans’ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
7. Damaged brain structure and function: Research has also shown that type 2 diabetics lose more brain volume with age than expected - particularly gray matter. This kind of brain atrophy is yet another contributing factor for dementia. Long-term, sugar consumption can contribute to the shrinking of the hippocampus, which is involved with the formation, organisation, and storage of memories, a prominent symptom of Alzheimer's disease.
8. Yeast infections, acne and other skin problems: According to a 2008 study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, what you eat can affect your skin. The study’s Australian researchers measured the effects of high glycemic diets on the skin of teenage boys. Low-glycemic participants experienced a 50 percent reduction in acne, while those who ate a high-glycemic diet experienced a 14 percent increase. Moreover, Yeast and other bacteria grow by feeding on sugar. When your blood sugar is particularly high, the extra sugars in your saliva and urine provide a strong breeding ground for them to manifest.
9. Fatty liver disease: Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NADLD) is a growing problem in the Western world and countries that follow fast-food and sugar laden diets. Excess fructose gets turned into fat, which can lodge in the liver rather than getting shipped out as VLDL cholesterol particles. When this happens, the liver becomes swollen and develops scar tissue which can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
10. Insatiable hunger: A soda containing high amounts of fructose will do little to make you think you're full even though you're taking in large amounts of calories. Your brain doesn't get the message that you really consumed much of anything and so it still thinks you're hungry. Leptin is a hormone that lets your body know when you've had enough to eat. Fructose consumption negatively changes the way your brain recognizes your consumption because it creates leptin resistance.