It can be hard to associate something found in so many of our favorite foods (as well as something that tastes so sweet and nice) with toxicity. Unfortunately, while sugar might make you feel happy while you’re eating it, it is potentially one of the most toxic ingredients we consume as a culture (1).
Read on to discover how sugar can damage your entire body (including your mind) and what you can do about it.
Sugar: The Lowdown
You may have heard that “sugar,” or glucose, is the preferred fuel for our brains and cells. While it is true that our bodies love using glucose for energy, this statement can be misleading for a number of reasons.
First of all, when it comes to our bodies preferring sugar for it’s energy requirements, this really means that our bodies prefer natural carbohydrate and sugar sources as fuel. This doesn’t include processed or packaged foods with added sugars like refined cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Think of the difference between a sweet potato and a pastry - one is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and natural carbohydrates, while the other is pure sugar from processed sources.
Second, not all sugar sources behave the same way when you consume them. For instance, your body is going to elicit a very different response to eating a tablespoon of high-fructose corn syrup as compared to a tablespoon of raw, local honey. One is highly processed and pure sugar, while the other is produced by nature and filled with antioxidants and compounds that nourish your body.
At the end of the day, sugar can be boiled down to two categories: natural and unnatural. Here, we’ll discuss the dangers of unnatural, processed sugars and why you need to detox from them as soon as possible.
8 Surprising Reasons Sugar Is Toxic
1. It's As Addictive As cocaineHave you ever found Have yourself wondering why you have such a “sweet tooth” all the time, or why you’re always craving dessert even if you’re full?
The answer lies in your brain, where sugar has a scary effect: research shows it has the same effect on the reward and pleasure centers of your brain as addictive drugs.
Specifically, studies have shown that people who are sugar addicted and people who are addicted to cocaine show the same “symptoms” or behaviors, including intense cravings, reduced control over behavior, tolerance, withdrawal and high rates of relapse (2).
In addition, researchers have found that sugar fed to rats addicted to cocaine and heroin reduced their need for the addictive drugs. Conclusion: sugar is potentially more rewarding than cocaine (3).
2. Linked to Weight Gain and Obesity
As you’re probably aware, eating a lot of sweets isn’t necessarily the best thing for your waistline. Studies have found significant links between sugar consumption and obesity, with one study showing that for each additional sugary soda children consumed each day, their odds of becoming obese increased by 60 percent after just 11⁄2 years (3).
Another study found that adults who consumed sugar tended to gain weight (1.7 pounds, to be exact), while those who reduced sugar tended to lose the same amount (4). While this might not seem like much at first glance, these pounds can really start to add up over time.
3. Linked to Developing Diabetes
Sugar consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes, regardless of whether you’re overweight or obese (5). This is due to the fact that when you consume excess sugar over a long period of time, your pancreas has to work overtime to produce enough insulin to keep your blood sugars from skyrocketing. Over time, your body stops responding to insulin properly due to being overworked. This is when insulin resistance and diabetes can set in.
4. Can Damage Your Brain
If you thought your brain was safe from the damaging effects of sugar, think again: research shows sugar is just as damaging to your brain and psychological wellbeing as early childhood abuse and trauma. Additionally, in the same study, scientists found reduced amounts of certain genes that promote the growth of nerves (6).
5. Interferes with Hormones
Like we spoke of earlier, sugar interferes with the hormone insulin’s ability to work effectively over time, which could result in diabetes. However, this isn’t the only hormone sugar disrupts.
Studies show that sugar consumption can actually turn off a gene that regulates estrogen and testosterone, and that men in particular experience a significant drop in free testosterone after eating sugar (7, 8). This can result in all kinds of side effects, including low energy levels, reduced libido, and even tumor growth if estrogen levels become imbalanced (9).
6. Linked to Dementia and Alzheimer’s
As you saw earlier, sugar can have a significant impact on your brain health. Research has found that it is also linked to the development of brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, and that simply having elevated blood sugar levels can increase your risk of developing dementia, regardless if you have a blood sugar condition like diabetes (10).
7. Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Sugar also takes a serious toll on your heart. One study showed that participants who received 17 to 21 percent of their daily calories in the form of added sugar were at a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to patients who consumed just 8 percent from sugar (11). This effect was observed across all age groups, sex, physical activity levels, education, body mass index, race, and physical activity levels.
8. Linked to Cancer
As if the toxic side effects of sugar couldn’t get any scarier, it turns out that it has been linked to cancer growth. Scientists have discovered a phenomenon called the Warburg effect, in which cancer cells break down sugars rapidly and fuel tumor growth (12). In particular, studies have found that tumors use significantly higher amounts of sugar than normal tissues, highlighting how sugar is being used to promote the life of tumors.
Benefits of Detoxing From Sugar
Aside from potentially avoiding the diseases and symptoms associated with eating sugar, there are several benefits to going on a sugar detox you might not be aware of.
1. More Energy
When you eat a sugary snack, your body immediately begins to absorb sugars into your blood stream. This causes your blood sugar to rise rapidly, probably giving you the popular “sugar high,” for the next half an hour.
However, remember that your body is releasing insulin in order to bring your blood sugar back under control. When your blood sugar gets high enough, your body releases a lot of insulin, which can result in a sudden “crash” an hour or so after eating sugar. You’ll most likely feel tired and drowsy, which creates the temptation to reach for another sugary snack to start the cycle all over again.
When you avoid sugar, you give your body the chance to stabilize it’s blood sugar levels throughout the day, avoiding the wild swings that can leave you drained and cranky.
2. Improve Your Learning Ability
Studies have shown that eating sugar can alter the structure of your brain in ways that reduce cognitive function and plasticity, which can severely effect how well you learn and remember new concepts (13).
3. Stop Cravings and Overeating
As we discussed earlier, sugar is highly addictive. Eating it creates a continuous cycle of cravings and reward that can cause you to easily overeat (which can, of course, lead to weightgain).
When you detox from sugar, you can eliminate the rush of feel-good, addictive chemicals released by your brain telling you to “eat more” of certain sweet treats (14). This will lead to reduced cravings and overeating in the future.
4. Better Skin
You’ve probably heard that hormones and acne are linked. Considering that sugar messes with your estrogen and testosterone levels, it makes sense that this would have an effect on your skin. Currently, hormone therapy is already used to help treat aggressive acne, but you could experience better skin tone and texture just by detoxing from sugar and it’s negative impact on your hormones (15).
How to Detox From Sugar
Detoxing from sugar doesn’t have to be an impossible task; with a few simple changes, you can easily reap the benefits of getting sugar out of your body.
All of these simple changes are outlined in the new Sugar Detox Protocol. Click on the image below to reveal everything you need to detox now.
1. Credit Suisse Research Institute. Sugar Consumption: At A Crossroads. 2013 Sep. <https://publications.credit-suisse.com/tasks/render/file/index.cfm?fileid=780BF4A8-B3D1- 13A0-D2514E21EFFB0479>
2. Christopher M. Olsen. Natural Rewards, Neuroplasticity, and Non-Drug Addictions. Neuropharmacology. 2011 Dec. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3139704/>
3. Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet. 2001;357:505-8. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11229668>
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8. Caronia, LM et al. Abrupt decrease in serum testosterone levels after an oral glucose load in men: implications for screening for hypogonadism. Clin Endocrinol. 2013 Feb. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22804876>
9. Osborne, CK et al. The value of estrogen and progesterone receptors in the treatment of breast cancer. Cancer. 1980 Dec. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7448733>
10. Crane, Paul K. et al. Glucose Levels and Risk of Dementia. N Engl J Med 2013. <http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1215740>
11. Yang, Q. et al. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Apr. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24493081>
12. VIB. "Scientists reveal the relationship between sugar, cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 October 2017. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171013103623.htm>
13. Molteni, R. et al. A high-fat, refined sugar diet reduces hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neuronal plasticity, and learning. Neuroscience. 2002. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12088740>
14. Lennerz, BS et al. Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23803881>
15. Mohamed L Elsaie. Hormonal treatment of acne vulgaris: an update. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015761/>