Sugar Addiction Part 2

August 27, 2017

Sugar Addiction (2nd of 3post series)


  • Contains no nutrients but plenty of empty calories: Added sugars such as sucrose contain no fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals, just energy. When the majority of an individual’s diet consists of large amounts of sugars, this can cause nutrient deficiencies.
  • It is highly addictive: Studies on lab rats show that sugar is as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
  • Bad for your teeth: Sugar is detrimental to the health of your teeth because it provides an easily digestible energy source for the bad bacteria in the mouth.
  • Fructose from added sugars can damage your liver: The common form of sugar (sucrose) is made of two components: fructose and glucose. Our bodies do not produce fructose in significant amounts and it cannot be easily metabolized in large amounts. Eating small amounts, especially in fruits is hardly ever detrimental as the body converts fructose into glycogen and keep it stored in the liver until needed. When the liver is full of glycogen, eating large amounts of fructose overloads the liver and forces it to turn the fructose into fat, resulting in fatty liver and various other health problems.
  • Sugar can cause insulin resistance and therefore diabetes: Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use the glucose found in food as energy. When sugars are ingested they cannot go into most of the cells directly, however, insulin is released into the bloodstream and attaches to cells allowing them to absorb the sugar from the bloodstream. When there is more sugar in the blood stream than required, insulin helps to store the sugar in the liver and release it in times of need. An overload of sugar can cause multiple tissues in the human body to become resistant to the effects of insulin, therefore preventing the absorption of glucose as energy. Often, as a result, the body is forced to produce more insulin, causing increased tissue growth (hyperinsulinemia), which then leads to weight gain, increased cell replication, and an increased risk of cancer. Insulin resistance can lead to diseases such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Causes cancer: This is because sugar can cause insulin resistance. Cancer is characterized by the uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells, and insulin is one of the main hormones regulating this growth. Elevated insulin levels caused by insulin resistance result in tissue and cell growth, therefore increasing the risk of cancers.
  • Causes obesity: Sugar has long been known as one of the causes of weight gain and obesity. The reason for this is simple: energy (kilojoules) above the body’s needs is stored as fat.
  • Interferes with the absorption of certain minerals and proteins, particularly chromium
  • Causes hypoglycaemia and anxiety: Hypoglycaemia occurs when blood sugar levels drop too low. Both anxiety and hypoglycaemia have similar symptoms. Foods with a high glycaemic index such as sugar, cause a spike in blood sugar levels resulting in the production of insulin which in turn, causes blood sugar levels to drop. When the brain doesn’t get the fuel it requires, the adrenal glands kick in and produce cortisol and epinephrine, which are stress hormones.
  • Causes loss of concentration: This is due to many factors caused by excess sugar intake. The excessive energy changes and mood swings caused by sugar, as well as the accompanying fatigue, make concentrating on tasks extremely difficult. As mentioned before, excess sugar causes a decrease in dopamine receptors, which is closely linked with a decrease of activity in the Prefrontal Cortex, the part of the brain responsible for organizational, planning, and decision-making skills.
  • Causes fatigue: Studies show that it takes just 30 minutes or less to go from a sugar rush to a sugar crash, often leaving you more tired and fatigued than you originally were. Sugar also causes the release of serotonin which is a sleep regulator that often causes drowsiness. Fatigue is also caused by both high and low blood glucose levels which are present in sugar “highs” and sugar “crashes”. High blood glucose levels make blood more viscous and “sludgy”, which slows circulation and prevents the cells from getting the oxygen and nurtrients they need. Low blood sugar levels caused by sugar “crashes” also cause fatigue as there is just not enough fuel for the cells to work well. Fatigue can also occur when blood vessels become inflamed by sugar. Immune cells called monocytes are produced and sent to the brain, causing fatigue.
  • Is a contributing factor for depression and mood swings: Most antidepressants work by boosting serotonin levels, which is also what happens when you eat sugar. By eating large amounts of sugars you are self-medicating, and it is only a short amount of time before your mood crashes again. Sugar also causes brain inflammation, which then results in the production of cytokines (essentially immune system messengers that regulate inflammation). Cytokines have been linked to plenty of mood-related disorders such as depression, anxiety, memory loss, confusion, loss of focus, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s. Sugar also suppresses the body’s natural antidepressant, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein which is critical for brain health. BDNF stimulates the production of new brain cells, protects the brain against degenerative diseases, and is a natural antidepressant. Sugar, especially when combined with a high fat intake, decreases the production of BDNF.
  • Induces cell death: When certain RNA’s are present cells can die in response to metabolic stress caused by exposure to high amounts of sugar and fats.
  • Increases blood pressure: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, may be caused by excessive sugar intake. When the body is subjected to a high sugar/high carb diet, it produces too much insulin and leptin, which causes blood pressure to increase (Hyperinsulinemia). This occurs due to the decreased excretion of sodium and water in the kidneys. Insulin resistance can also cause hypertension as, when the cells become resistant to insulin, magnesium can no longer be stored. Low levels of magnesium often mean that blood vessel is unable to fully relax, and this constriction raises blood pressure. The increased amount of Uric acid due to high fructose levels is also a contributing factor to high blood pressure as it inhibits the nitric oxide in blood vessels which is the main factor which helps them to retain their elasticity. AGEs, which are the direct result of exposure to sugars, actively causes vascular stiffening and the narrowing of blood vessels.
  • Causes kidney stones and gallstones, and can cause damage to the kidneys: This is largely due to the fact that excess sugar consumption causes increased Uric acid levels. Kidney failure and Kidney Disease are particularly common in people who suffer from diabetes. One of the main causes of kidney failure is mellitus, which is caused when the high levels of sugar in the blood damage the millions of tiny filtering units in the kidneys.
  • Causes headaches and migraines: The reactive hypoglycaemia caused by the sudden sugar “crash” and resulting drop in blood glucose levels is often characterized by headaches amongst other symptoms. Headaches can also be caused by hyperglycaemia (too high levels of blood sugars). When blood sugar levels are too high people often develop a headache which starts out mild and gets worse as blood sugar level rises or stays too high. Fluctuations of glucose levels affect the brain more than anywhere else in the body. The rises and drops in glucose levels can cause a resulting headache.
  • Causes gastrointestinal tract problems such as IBS: Certain people may have sugar intolerance and have difficulty digesting sugar. Most people can digest sugar, but the human body is not always capable of handling the amount of sugar in the modern diet. Anything the body can’t break down and absorb/digest stays in the digestive tract and is removed when you have a bowel movement. If there is more sugar than your body can break down, some of the sugar will stay in the bowels. As this sugar moves through the large intestine, bacteria and yeast begin to feed on it, resulting in a gas build up. This build-up of gas can cause cramping, bloating, spasms, and pain. Sugar is also known to draw water into the large intestine and prevent it from being absorbed properly, resulting in diarrhoea.
  • Promotes chronic degenerative diseases: Eating too much sugar often results in elevated insulin levels. The more sugar and carbs you eat, the more your pancreas produces insulin. Studies have shown that chronically high levels of insulin are linked to an increased risk of degenerative diseases, including heart disease, cancer, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Alzheimer’s, dementia, myopia, and osteoporosis.
  • Causes cataracts, glaucoma, and other eye issues: High blood sugar levels are one of the primary causes of health issues associated with the eyes such as: lurry vision, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and retinopathy. This is why diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 – 74. High blood sugar levels may lead to swelling and changes in the optic lens, resulting in the clouding of that usually clear lens, preventing the eye from being able to focus light properly. Retinopathy is caused when elevated and uncontrolled blood sugar levels cause irreversible damage to the blood vessels in the retina (a group of cells in the eye which transmit visual information from the optic nerve to the brain). This condition can lead to visual impairment or blindness. Glaucoma occurs when the blood vessels in the eye narrow, resulting in a build-up of fluids that cannot properly drain due to high blood sugars and insulin. This build-up leads to pressure in the eyes, which, if left untreated, can damage the optic nerve and blood vessels. Studies also find that excessive levels of sugar in the blood may increase the risk of macular degeneration. This occurs when the middle part of the retina (macula) degenerates, leading to problems such as blurred vision, dimmed vision, or wavy appearances of straight lines.
  • May lead to autoimmune diseases such as asthma, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis: Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system starts attacking healthy cells. While there are many factors that can cause autoimmune diseases, sugar may be a trigger as it causes insulin resistance, hormonal imbalance, and blood sugar spikes. It also triggers inflammation which could cause an autoimmune reaction.
  • May cause food allergies: For proteins to be digested, certain trace minerals such as magnesium, chromium, zinc, cobalt, and manganese are required. These minerals are severely depleted when the body utilizes sugar. Many food allergies are caused by undigested proteins.
  • Contributes to osteoporosis: Sugar causes an increase in urinary calcium and magnesium excretion, resulting in a deficiency in these minerals which are essential for good bone health. Sugar also prevents the absorption of copper. This mineral acts as a sort of bone building material and it works along with an enzyme that develops bone. As sugar is absorbed, it causes a rapid rise in glucose levels which causes the body’s PH level to become acidic. As a result, in an attempt to counter and balance this acidic environment, calcium is leached from the bones. Also, elevated blood glucose levels cause the production of AGEs which cause tissue damage and the degeneration of collagen. Bones are composed of mainly collagen, which creates a criss-crossed protein structure that provides flexibility to the mineralized collagen that makes up most of the bone’s total substance.
  • Lowers immune system strength: Sugar supresses an immune system function called phagocytosis which is essentially the ingestion of bacteria or other foreign material by phagocytes and amoeboid protozoans. Sugar works to suppress this function by damaging the phagocytes or preventing them from doing their job. It also competes with Vitamin C. Insulin is known to transport both sugar and Vitamin C in and out of cells, as they have similar structures, and if it is “too busy” transporting sugar around, there is less Vitamin C being transported to where it needs to go to support the immune system. It is estimated that white blood cells need about 50 times the normal amount of Vitamin C to get rid of viruses and bacteria. Studies show that a blood glucose level of 120 (a normal level for an adult after eating) reduces the effectiveness of the immune system by up to 75%.
  • Increases risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: Studies suggest that people with high blood glucose levels, not just diabetics, are at a greater risk of developing dementia. This is possibly caused by increased insulin resistance which has been linked with dementia development. Sugar also stimulates the production of toxins in the body which can lead to inflammation, and the build-up of plaque in the brain, resulting in cognitive impairment. Glucose and its breakdown products damage the proteins in cells through a reaction known as glycation. There is an enzyme known as the macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) which plays a role in insulin regulation and immune response. The glycation of these MIF enzymes, resulting in the inhibition and reduction of MIF activity, seems to be the tipping point of the disease development and progression. In studies, the glycation of the MIF enzymes is on par with disease progression.
  • Increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease: Studies have found that people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
  • Promotes yeast infections: Candida yeast infections can be caused by excess sugar in the gut acting as a food source for the Candida yeast, causing it to multiply and overrun the “good” bacteria. Candida requires sugar to grow new cells, multiply, and switch into its fungal form, allowing it to spread throughout the body. This is known as Candida overgrowth and can cause symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and recurring yeast infections.
  • Can cause toxaemia during pregnancy: Pre-eclampsia is a common condition that can occur during pregnancy and is characterized by high blood pressure, or, hypertension, which can become very dangerous if not treated. Studies show women with diabetes have double the risk of developing pre-eclampsia, and having kidney disease or high blood pressure (both side effects of too much sugar) also increase this risk.
  • Causes skin conditions such as acne and eczema: Sugar causes a spike in insulin levels which causes a burst of inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation produces enzymes that attack collagen and elastin, which results in sagging skin, wrinkles, and premature aging. Digested sugar can even permanently attach to the collagen in the skin through a process called glycation. As well as causing premature aging, sugar is also known to worsen other skin conditions such as acne and rosacea (facial flushing). Sugar suppresses the immune system, which leaves it susceptible to bacteria, which is what commonly causes acne. It also causes the body to produce more of the male hormones: testosterone and androgens, which cause larger pores, increased oil production, hardened blood vessels, and decreased water binding and oxygenation of the skin. Excessive sugar consumption can also lead to insulin resistance, which, in turn, can lead to hirsutism (excessive hair growth), and dark patches on the skin.
  • Worsens ADHD symptoms: While some studies suggest that there is no correlation between sugar and ADHD symptoms, other newer studies have shown that there are definite links between refined sugars and an increase in ADHD behaviours, particularly hyperactivity. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose and used by the organs (including the brain) as energy. Since neurons in the brain can’t store glucose, they need a steady supply of it. Spikes in the brain’s glucose supply can result in hyperactivity and sugar crashes, leading to an increase in behavioural problems in the individual.
  • Lowers the body’s metabolic rate: The body digests sugars and high carb foods extremely easily and quickly, and so does not have to burn any extra calories to break them down, resulting in the metabolism operating at a lower level.
  • Causes the loss of tissue elasticity and function: This is due to increased or excessive cell death caused by high levels of fats and sugar impairing the function of tissues in the body.
  • Causes premature aging: Sugar in the bloodstream often attaches to proteins to form new and destructive molecules called advanced glycation end products or AGEs. These then go on to attack and damage nearby proteins, which include the protein fibres in collagen elastin – the main components in skin firmness and elasticity. These destructive molecules also deactivate the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes which result in increased chances of sun damage.
  • Increases fluid retention: Retaining water is a medical condition known as edema where excess fluid accumulates in the body tissues. Overindulgence in sugar causes the body to produce insulin, which is one of the main causes of fluid retention. High insulin levels result in the retention of sodium which then results in the retention of water.
  • Impairs the function of the pancreas and adrenal glands: Excess sugar causes the pancreas and the adrenal glands to produce extra cortisol and insulin to counter this influx of sugar and empty calories. Aka, ingesting excess sugars will cause blood sugar levels to spike high, resulting in insulin production to combat the excess glucose in the bloodstream (which is toxic). Then the blood sugar levels drop and crash after the insulin spike, causing the adrenals to have to respond to bring the blood sugar back up. Over time, this causes stress on the organs and results in lower levels of important hormones and neurotransmitters such as cortisol and aldosterone, which then results in Adrenal Fatigue, which is characterized by tiredness, low energy levels, mild anxiety and depression, and lack of interest in daily tasks.
  • Causes hormonal imbalance: When insulin spikes, it causes a drop in the levels of an important protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG works to bind excess estrogen and testosterone in the blood, so when the levels of SHBG are low, the blood levels of these hormones increase. Insulin is also known to produce testosterone which is then converted into more estrogen, resulting in the estrogen to progesterone ratio being way too high, and causing side effects such as irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and mood swings.
  • Decreases growth hormones: Sugar intake increases insulin production which in turn, inhibits the production of Growth Hormone. Factors such as low blood sugar, sleep, and exercise stimulate the hypothalamus to produce hormones that in turn increase Growth Hormone synthesis and secretion. Alternatively, elevated levels of cortisol and blood glucose cause a decrease in the production of Growth Hormone.
  • Worsens Varicose veins: These veins occur when the one-way valve in the veins designed to prevent the backflow of blood are weakened, allowing blood to flow backwards, where it pools and pushes on the sides of the veins. Sugar causes water retention which worsens varicose veins because the increase in fluids puts excess pressure on the veins and their valves, weakening them even more. Sugar is also known to cause poor circulation, which is one of the contributing factors towards Varicose Veins. Sugar also causes inflammation which may cause damage to blood vessel walls.
  • Atherosclerosis: Common in diabetics, studies show that people with high glucose levels are at greater risk of developing atherosclerosis due to the fact that sugar causes inflammation and decreases blood flow, leaving them more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Infertility: Sugar consumption messes with the body’s hormones. Too much sugar causes an increase in insulin which ends up dropping dramatically, resulting in the production of cortisol and adrenalin in the attempt to stabilize the blood sugar levels. This results in a hormonal imbalance and affects fertility greatly because the cortisol produced is constantly competing with progesterone (the main hormone required for ovulation) for the same receptor binding sites in the body. Cortisol usually wins, and if continued for extended periods of time, will disrupt the whole endocrine system which, in turn, disrupts all of the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, androgens, and testosterone) irrespective of gender.