We all know that excess sugar makes us fat and causes tooth decay…. BUT did you know that your sweet tooth can also make you weaker, older, less motivated and more tired?
1. Sugar lowers testosteroneTestosterone drops almost immediately after sugar intake due to rapid release of insulin. Chronically low testosterone in men can cause mood disturbances, increased body fat, loss of muscle tone, poor sexual performance, osteoporosis, difficulty with concentration, memory loss and sleep difficulties. In women, continually low testosterone can lead to lethargy, loss of muscle mass and strength, loss of libido, low motivation and crappy mood. How much sugar has to be ingested to send your testosterone downhill? Just 27g of refined sugar lower testosterone by up to 25%! That’s’ equivalent of one of these: one can of Redbull, half bottle of Gatorade or Powerade, 3.5 TimTams, 6 squares of Cadbury chocolate, ¾ of Domino’s pizza, 100 of granola or one granola bar. Alcohol has a similar effect.
2. Sugar weakens your immune system
White blood cells (our immune cells) need vitamin C to destroy harmful bacteria and viruses and neutralise free radicals. The problem is that sugar and vitamin C have a very similar chemical structure and compete for space in white blood cells. The more sugar you eat, the less vitamin C gets in your white blood cells resulting in lowered ability to fight infections, viruses and other nasties attacking your body. For instance, drinking 1L of Coke lowers your body’s ability to kill germs by 40% for about five hours!!! If your diet is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, any vitamin C supplements are really just a waste of money.
3. Sugar increases inflammationAlthough inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing process, a chronic-low grade inflammation can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, allergies, and impaired ability to burn fat for fuel. Research in human subjects shows that just one can of sugary drink a day leads to an increase in inflammatory markers, insulin resistance and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol that clogs up your arteries). For example, inflammatory markers spike up in about 30min after ingesting 2 slices of white bread and remain elevated for at least two hours. So if you have a white toast for breakfast, white sandwich for lunch and white pasta for dinner, you are likely to be inflamed the whole day and on your way to weight gain and some serious health issues down the track.
4. Sugar contributes to premature ageing
We can’t avoid ageing unfortunately, but we can prevent premature wrinkling of our skin simply by cutting down on sugar. Glycation is a natural process in which the sugar in the bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop and the more protein in your skin gets damaged. The proteins in the skin that are the most vulnerable to damage are collagen and elastin, the two key elements in keeping our skin firm and elastic. If that wasn’t bad enough, a diet high in sugar also affects what type of collagen we have. In a nutshell, glycation transforms the most stable and long lasting collagen fibres to more fragile fibres making the skin looking and feeling much less supple. To make it even worse, AGEs deactivate the skin’s natural protection, making us more prone to sun damage.
5. Sugar ruins your liver
You don’t have to be an alcoholic to suffer from self-inflicted liver damage. Too much fructose in your diet will affect the liver similarly as alcohol, causing a fatty buildup that can develop to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and insulin resistance (which can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome and many other diseases). This applies to excess fructose from sugars added to most processed foods and sugary treats. Eating 1-2 pieces of fruit a day is actually healthy due to the fibre, vitamin and mineral content.
With this in mind, no one's perfect and neither do we wanna strive to be. However, it's probably a good idea to indulging in moderation when it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth and when possible, switch the refined sugar treat to one from more natural sources!