Why sugar is not good for us and what to do about it

Yes, we all heard that sugar is not good for us! And yet, we eat so much of it everyday. Often we are not even aware of it! It’s in things that don’t even taste sweet like bacon, smoked salmon and ketchup. Then there are foods that are marketed to us as healthy and natural. Yogurts, for example, can have anywhere between 3 to 6 teaspoons of sugar in a 5-6 ounce container. Or energy bars and fruits, everybody knows there are good for us, right? And they can be but they typically have a lot of fructose. When we add it all together we end up with a ton of sugar that we eat every day.

5 reasons why you sugar is not good for us

  1. Empty calories. It has no other nutritional value but calories. Excess sugar is very quickly converted into fat by our cells. The end result is that we gain weight2.
  2. Inflammation. Too much sugar causes inflammation. And, as we are learning now, inflammation is a causes root of many chronic diseases of Western world, including heart disease3.
  3. Liver damage. Too much fructose causes fatty liver disease. A fatty liver cannot function correctly and,  for example, protect you from the toxins that enter your body on a daily basis4.
  4. Blood sugar problems. Eating too many sweets can throw your blood sugar levels into disarray, and can lead to diabetes5.
  5. Bone density decrease. A diet high on “Added Sugars” is associated with low bone mineral density and bone fractures6.

How much sugar can I eat?

What’s not too much? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 100 calories a day from added sugars for women and no more than 150 calories a day for men. That’s about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 for men. For comparison just 200-250 years ago Europeans ate less than 1 teaspoon of sugar a day7. Unfortunately, most Americans get more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, which far exceeds the generous recommendations of AHA.

What can I do to eat less sweets?

  • Identify the sources of sugar in your diet and decide what to cut out completely and what to cut down on. Throw out anything from your pantry that you have decided not to eat or drink, and never buy it again.
  • Remember to read the food labels. Words like fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, sucrose, glucose, molasses, maltose, dextrose, honey, rice/maple/malt/golden/palm syrup, all mean sugar.
  • Skip any product that contains sweeteners in the first three ingredients or if there is more than one sweet ingredient on the list.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Yes, you can do it!
  • Quit snacking on sweets. Substitute with vegetables, nuts and cheese.
  • Stay positive. Remind yourself why you chose to reduce sweets, rather than focusing on feeling deprived.
  • Cook with less sugar. When it comes to desserts, a little bit of sweetness goes a long way. When you reset your taste buds to lower levels of sweetness, you might actually taste and enjoy other flavors more.
  • Reset your pallet. Avoid everything that has sweet taste for 2-3 week to reset your taste pallet.

Here is an article on Strategies to deal with sugar over holidays.

  1. Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L., & Ahmed, S. (2007). Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward. Plos One, 2(8), e698.
  2. Johnson, R., J., Segal, M., S., Sautin, Y., Nakagawa, T., Feig, D.,I., Kang, D., Gersch, M., S., Benner, S., and Sa ́nchez-Lozada, L., G., (2007). Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86, 899–906.
  3. Mellor, K., Ritchie, R., Davidoff, A., & Delbridge, L. (2010). Elevated dietary sugar and the heart: experimental models and myocardial remodeling. Canadian Journal Of Physiology And Pharmacology, 88(5), 525-540. doi:10.1139/y10-005
  4. Aeberli, I., Hochuli, M., Gerber, P., Sze, L., Murer, S., Tappy, L., & … Berneis, K. (2013). Moderate Amounts of Fructose Consumption Impair Insulin Sensitivity in Healthy Young Men: A randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care, 36(1), 150-156. doi:10.2337/dc12-0540
  5. Johnson, R., Perez-Pozo, S., Sautin, Y., Manitius, J., Sanchez-Lozada, L., Feig, D., & … Nakagawa, T. (2009). Hypothesis: could excessive fructose intake and uric acid cause type 2 diabetes?. Endocrine Reviews, 30(1), 96-116. doi:10.1210/er.2008-0033
  6. Tsanzi, E., Fitch, C., & Tou, J. (2008). Effect of consuming different caloric sweeteners on bone health and possible mechanisms. Nutrition Reviews, 66(6), 301-309. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00037.x
  7. Ruprecht, W. (2005). The historical development of the consumption of sweeteners – a learning approach. Journal of Evolutionary Economy, 15: 247–272. DOI: 10.1007/s00191-005-0253-0