What are the effects of sugar on the body? By now, we all know that at some level, sugar is bad for us. But how bad is it and what does it do the body?
Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
The human body wants blood glucose (blood sugar) maintained in a very narrow range. The hormones, insulin and glucagon are secreted from the pancreas and are responsible for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. If there is too much blood sugar, insulin is released which causes other cells, like fat cells, to absorb the sugar. If blood sugar levels are low, the hormone glucagon is secreted which induces other cells to create glucose. Since we are focused on the effects of sugar on the body, let’s talk more about insulin.
Consistent high blood sugar levels will result in chronically elevated insulin levels which will create dysfunctional insulin receptor sites on the cell. This means blood sugar will not be able to enter the cells. This results in the sugar staying in general circulation rather than being stored. As a result, the body must produce higher levels of insulin to remove glucose from the blood stream, which causes even greater metabolic dysfunction known as insulin resistance. Characteristic symptoms of insulin resistance include: fatigue after meals, craving for sweets that doesn’t go away when sweets are eaten, increased thirst, and frequent urination.
Sugar and the Brain
You probably know someone who openly admits they are addicted to sugar or will eat sweets even when they know they shouldn’t. More and more studies are showing that sugar affects the body, and in particular the brain, in a variety of ways. It is increasingly being linked to brain-related health issues such as memory problems, overeating, learning disorders, depression, and Alzheimer’s. You’ve probably heard of the idea that Alzheimer’s is diabetes of the brain. Dr. David Perlmutter, neurologist and author of the books “Brain Maker” and “Grain Brain,” believes Alzheimer’s disease is primarily predicated on lifestyle choices, including sugar consumption.
Sugar is found naturally in whole foods. We have already talked about how the body likes to keep blood sugar, or glucose, constrained to a narrow window. Fructose is also naturally found in fruits and vegetables, but it is not the preferred energy source for the body. It is naturally metabolized in the liver and appears to behave more like fat in the body. It is also known to disrupt the brain’s signaling method to tell you that you’ve had enough food. For these reasons, everyone should minimize their intake of fructose. So it should come as no surprise that the worst form of sugar is high fructose corn syrup. It packs on the pounds faster than any other nutrient and is frequently made from genetically engineered corn adding to the potential unhealthy consequences.
Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure
High blood sugar levels are known to be a contributing factor to heart disease. This is because high glucose levels damage blood vessels of all sizes along with nerves. It also causes the blood to become thick and stick to the sides of veins and arteries causing hardening of the arteries. If your blood sugar levels are too high for too long, you will likely develop diabetes. People with diabetes are at a high risk for developing diabetic heart disease or DHD. ScienceDaily reported that high glucose at the time of a heart attack could make a blocked coronary artery contract and lead to a higher risk of complications. The same article explains that the resulting artery contraction from high levels of glucose can result in high blood pressure.
The Effects of Sugar on the Liver
The effects of sugar can also impact the liver. This is because the liver responds to the levels of insulin in the blood. After eating, our blood glucose levels rise, which triggers the pancreas to release insulin into the blood. Insulin is the signal for the body to absorb glucose from the blood. Most cells just use the glucose to supply them with energy. But the liver responds to the insulin by absorbing glucose and producing the hormone glycogen and turning the glucose into fatty acids for long term storage as fat. When insulin, and therefore, blood sugar levels drop, the liver releases the stored glucose back into the blood, thereby providing energy for the cells. The liver also has the ability to make glucose from scratch. If the liver is processing too much glucose and producing too much fat, it can result in a fatty liver.
I hope this helps you understand the effects of sugar on the body. If it helped you, I’d greatly appreciate it if you commented and/or share it on social media.