According to the WHO, excess sugar is the main cause of overweight and type 2 diabetes in the world. So eliminating excess sugar is very important to stay healthy.
The consequences of an excess of sugar are not only due to its caloric content, in fact a gram of sugar provides the same calories as a gram of protein .
The problem with excess sugar is that it causes long-term hormonal changes that lead to overeating and dependence on sweet foods.
This article analyzes the causes and consequences of excess sugar and how to eliminate this food from the diet.
Causes of excess sugar
Contrary to what is usually intuited, excess sugar in a person’s diet is not at all adding a teaspoon to coffee.
The main cause of excess sugar is the consumption of ultra-processed foods. Because sugar is inexpensive, and its flavor is pleasant to the palate, it is added to most sweet packaged products: cookies, cakes, jams, jellies, ice cream, etc.
In addition, sugar is found in large quantities in a large number of foods that are considered healthy at first glance. For example, it is usually the main ingredient in breakfast cereals, as well as in a large number of light products.
Other causes of excess sugar are stress and poor sleep. It has been confirmed that under these situations, the stress hormone, cortisol increases. A common way to counteract this effect is to eat something sweet. If this behavior becomes a habit, the person is likely to enter a very difficult cycle to get out.
The causes of excess sugar are:
- Frequent consumption of ultra-processed products
- Frequent stressful situations
- Not identifying what foods it is in
- Eat sugary foods in the morning
- Dependence on the sweet taste
- Sleep bad
Consequences of excess sugar
When there is too much sugar in the diet, not only are you at a higher risk for cavities, but important changes occur in the body. For example, insulin , dopamine, and ghrelin levels get out of control.
Insulin is the hormone in charge of regulating how much energy enters the cells and when there is an excess of sugar the body generates resistance to it. This is what is known as insulin resistance and it is the main cause of type diabetes.
Dopamine is a hormone that disrupts the brain’s reward circuits. When there is an excess of sugar it increases and gives rise to a state of pleasure.
When the sugar levels in the body drop, the brain feels the need to return to that state again. One of the consequences of this process is wanting to eat more sweets, so in some people it can lead to dependence.
As for ghrelin, it has the consequence of generating changes in appetite. Like other simple carbohydrates , sugar does not satisfy hunger, but rather intensifies it and consequently causes an increase in the frequency and quantity in which it is eaten.
In addition, research has confirmed that a long-term excess of sugar causes digestion disorders, worsens the absorption of B vitamins, and can increase bad cholesterol (LDL). (2)
The consequences of sugar in the body are:
- increases the risk of developing cavities
- causes changes in the gastrointestinal microflora
- generates insulin resistance
- increases bad cholesterol
- increases the feeling of hunger
- overweight and obesity
How to eliminate sugar from the diet?
The causes and consequences of sugar are obvious. However, eliminating it from the diet may seem more complex than it seems, here is a strategy to limit excess sugar from the diet:
1. Avoid eating sweet foods in the morning .
Granola, (muesli) as well as cereals, although they may seem healthy, usually have sugar as the first ingredient in their composition.
2. Substitute complex carbohydrates for sugar
3. Eliminate sweet foods from the cupboard
Make sure you don’t have sweet foods, cookies, ice cream, chocolates, and donuts in sight. The availability of sweet foods in your home will make limiting excess sugar a much more complex task.
4. More fruits and dark chocolate
Eating fruits and dark chocolate is an excellent combination to limit excess sugar. Eating low-carb fruits in particular will make the sweet tooth disappear and insulin levels return to normal.
5. Use more cinnamon in meals
One of the properties of cinnamon is to regulate insulin levels. Including this spice in desserts or coffee will make limiting sugar an easier task.
6. Check foods classified as light
Remember to always check the labels where the sugar is hidden. Even products classified as lights tend to have high sugar content hidden under the name of sucrose.
7. Start training
Most people who have excess sugar in their diet are trying to offset high levels of anxiety. Starting to do some type of physical exercise is a good way to counteract this effect.
Sugar dependency Is it real?
Studies suggest that there may be a psychological dependence on sugar. (2,3,4)
One of the effects of sugar is to release neurotransmitters related to pleasure, this gives a feeling of calm. This mechanism is similar to that of tobacco and alcohol.
In fact, eating foods with excess sugar is the first thing that comes to mind after going through a stressful situation.
The problem is that these effects of sugar occur for a short period of time. What again generate the need for this stimulus and lead us to eat something sweet.
Daily dose of sugar – maximum amount allowed
FAO and WHO state that sugar and other simple carbohydrates should not represent more than 5-10% of total daily calories. The equivalent of about 100-250 kcal (3) .
By weight, this would be about 25-60 grams of sugar per day. This figure includes not only the added white sugar, but also the sugar contained in the rest of the meals of the day. A serving of ice cream, cookies and sweet desserts or 500 mL of sugary soft drinks would be enough to reach this amount.
For this reason, one of the first steps to avoid the consequences of excess sugar in the diet is to limit sugary soft drinks. It is not a secret of Coca-Cola that provides 20-25 g of sugar in just one can. Which means almost completely covering the allowed daily dose of sugar.
Substitute sweeteners for sugar?
There is a wide variety of sugar substitutes on the market , these products are for diabetics.
However, substituting sweeteners for sugar is not the best solution to the problem. While a person reduces excess calories; dependence on the sweet taste continues to exist.
Science suggests that limiting excess sugar is best not simply transitioning to its substitutes. Ideally, replace them with complex carbohydrates .
Also, it is important to view sugar as a sporadic treat. Eating sweet foods in small portions is totally allowed in a healthy diet.
SUMMARY – Excess sugar
- Excess sugar is one of the main causes of type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity in the world.
- It is not necessary to eliminate sugar completely from the diet. The important thing is to avoid its excess.
- The consequences of sugar are not due to its caloric intake, but due to it alters hormonal levels.
- Too much sugar can be caused by not knowing where you are, as well as by continually exposing yourself to stressful situations.
- To eliminate excess sugar, it is best to do a gradual process, this is the best way to maintain the habit in the long term.