The Not So Sweet side of Sugar


Sugar is present in a variety of foods—fruits and vegetables, rice and pasta, and dairy products. Contrary to its popularity and usage table sugar has minimal nutritional value. No protein, no fiber and no micro nutrients, just empty carbohydrates.

You may ask, what harm can a teaspoon of good old sugar do? But the truth is we consume so much more than just one or two teaspoons.

Let me break it down for you. Here is the math: A teaspoon of sugar has 4 grams of the sweet stuff. An 8 ounce serving of a popular carbonated beverage has about 28 grams of sugar. So that’s 7 teaspoons of sugar. If you are used to having this drink every day, you are consuming 2555 grams of sugar every year just from this one serving.

Once you factor in the amount of sugar from other beverages and foods, that final number may just about become even more scary. So, the next time you are thirsty, say cheers to a glass of cold water.

Excessive Sugar consumption can Lead to Cavity Formation

We are not the only ones who are sugar lovers. The bacteria in our mouths crave and thrive on sugar. They metabolize the sugar to produce acid. Yes, the same acid gradually corrodes teeth and can lead to cavity formation. Bacteria also produce components (again from sugar) that enable them to really latch onto teeth. They actually form a film of bacteria (a biofilm).

Next time you are helping yourself to some sugary treats, remember these little guys are having a party too!  Of course, tooth decay is exacerbated by poor dental hygiene.

Sugar has Minimal Nutritional Value

Familiar with the term Glycemic Index (GI)? It is a measure of how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar (glucose) levels.

When we consume sugary foods and drinks, blood sugar levels rise. As a response to rising blood sugar, the pancreas produces insulin, which signals the cells to absorb the sugar in the blood. This causes a drop in the blood sugar levels. When this occurs, the pancreas makes glucagon, that signals the liver to release stored sugar. Both these hormones—insulin and glucagon—allow the cells in the body to have a steady supply of sugar.

Consumption of sugary foods leads to continuous spikes in the GI. These constant spikes in blood sugar levels increase lethargy, lower productivity and can cause mood swings. Choose foods with a low GI (legumes, non-starchy vegetables, and whole grains).

Sugars can Age You

One other detrimental effect of sugar consumption is aging. How? Well, sugar has the ability to bind to proteins, and actually modify the structure of these proteins. These modified-protein-structures alter the elasticity of various organs.

One very visible effect of this is sagging skin. No amount of fruit facials is going to help you if you are addicted to sugar. One can only imagine the slow internal damage that can be caused by sugar.

Have you heard your parents or elderly relatives say “nowadays diabetes is a way of life”? Well, diabetes is one of the few diseases that can be managed by lifestyle changes.

The consumption of sugar has a direct impact on the development of diabetes. When you take care of yourself in your 20’s, and 30’s you will reap its benefits in your 60’s. But it’s impossible to get these benefits by just popping a pill in your 60’s.

Sugar consumption is also linked to the development of numerous diseases and detrimental conditions (in addition to diabetes) such as high cholesterol and heart disease.

Prevention is Better than Cure

The ugly truth is sugar has many detrimental effects. I hope I was successful in convincing you about the negative effects of sugar. Next time you are at the grocery store, read the food labels, pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, and remember nothing quenches thirst like a refreshing glass of water.

Choose foods with low glycemic index.  Let us all focus on nutrition, and cleanse ourselves from the inside out. Being proactive in your approach to food choices will only help you lead a long, happy and healthy life!


About the Author

Anamika pursued her life-long goal of a doctorate degree in Microbiology and Immunology. She is a medical writer by profession, and has found a new joy in creative writing.

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