Is the Sugar Demon On Your Tongue or In Your Mind? Exploring the Harmful Effects of Sugar

Graphic of gummy bears in front of white sugar background.

Is there a sugar demon lurking on your tongue, or is it hidden in your mind? This question is among the most discussed in my practice. Sugar’s addictive nature is undeniable. Consider this: When you give a two-year-old a lollipop, they become overexcited, start running around like mad, and soon enough, they want another one. If a toddler can succumb to these addictive qualities of sugar, imagine the effect it has had on you at your current age. Let’s explore the genuine influence sugar has on our well-being.

The Addictive Science of Sugar

Sugar impacts two key neurotransmitters. One is dopamine, which activates the pleasure and reward centers in our brain. The other is opioids, which drive us to repeat behaviors despite their negative consequences, essentially telling us to keep coming back for more. 

Every time we consume sugar, we reinforce these pathways and develop a tolerance. We find ourselves unable to stop, as the opioid receptors diminish our self-control, making us crave more and more to get the same good feeling. This pattern of tolerance is a lot like what happens with many drugs, which is why we should view sugar as a drug too. 

How Sugar Became a Health Villain

How did sugar become so widely available and start causing such big issues in our country?  Back in the day, your grandparents might have used cane sugar to sweeten their recipes. But sugar was somewhat pricey, and they couldn’t afford to keep a lot of it on hand. Therefore they didn’t eat too much of it. 

In the 70s, high fructose corn syrup was created and laws were passed that forced farmers to grown corn to support production. If they didn’t comply, they faced fines. If they did comply, they got incentives and earned more. Unfortunately for us consumers, our bodies struggle to process fructose because it’s energy-intensive. Since it doesn’t break down as easily as sucrose into glucose, the excess gets stored as fat.

The rise of high fructose corn syrup has gone hand in hand with the obesity crisis. We didn’t cut back on sugar consumption; we merely swapped out one type of sugar for another leading to obesity in almost half of all Americans! So the next time a medical professional or so-called expert advises you to simply “eat less and exercise more,” or questions why you can’t just stop eating sugar, I’d suggest telling them to take a step back and educate themselves. Being addicted to sugar isn’t about lacking willpower. It’s the result of a huge problem that began with the introduction of high fructose corn syrup. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

6 Reasons Why Sugar is Bad For You 

1. Increases Fatigue

When you’re working late at night and start to feel tired, it’s easy to justify a sugar fix by thinking, “I’ll just have a few gummy bears to help me keep going.” At first, you’re all revved up, feeling great, and your work picks up. But 30 minutes later, you begin to feel the fatigue creeping back in. Within an hour of consuming sugar, you’ll notice your alertness starting to wane—so you have more sugar to stay alert and keep feeding the addictive cycle.

2. Causes Inflammation

Inflammation is at the core of most diseases, including cardiovascular disease. If you have joint issues, like arthritis, you’ll see that eating sugar just makes things worse: more swelling, and more discomfort. 

3. Decreases Healing

Sugar slows down healing, especially from a nutritional standpoint. Eating too much sugar means you’re missing out on vital nutrients, making it hard to increase your albumin, which is crucial for fighting off infections and keeping your immune system strong. 

4. Angers Skin

Increased acne comes from advanced glycation end products, which form when sugar reacts with the protein in our skin. This reaction can cause wrinkles and make our skin age faster because it messes with our collagen and elastin production. When you eat a lot of sugar, you end up with zits and wrinkles—not exactly the best combo, right?

5. Damages Cardiovascular Health

Sugar is no friend to heart health. It can crank up your blood pressure, send your triglycerides soaring, and raise your LDL cholesterol—aka the bad kind of cholesterol. It also plays a huge role in atherosclerosis. This is where plaque builds up in your arteries, making them narrower and stiffer, thus reducing blood flow. Atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems like heart attacks and strokes because it makes it hard for oxygen and vital nutrients to get where they need to go. All in all, sugar is the enemy of cardiovascular health.

6. Impacts Mental Wellness

It’s important to understand sugar’s relationship to mental health. Sugar triggers a serotonin boost, making us feel fantastic. But soon after, we crash, which can lead to spikes in anxiety and depression. Sugar also impacts the liver: the excess fructose that can’t be converted to glucose is stored and becomes toxic. Unprocessed fructose accumulating in the liver can overburden it, potentially causing fatty liver disease. A healthy liver plays a crucial role in detoxifying the body, regulating hormones, and controlling blood sugar levels—all vital for mood and mental health. Fluctuations in blood sugar can lead to mood swings, fatigue, and symptoms akin to depression, which are intensified by liver stress, further affecting our mental well-being.

Cut Down on Sugar Once and For All

Sugar can be a major obstacle on your weight loss journey. And how could it not be? Sugar has undeniable addictive qualities, mimicking drug-like effects by hijacking our brain’s pleasure pathways. The consequences? A national obesity crisis and a slew of health issues ranging from fatigue and inflammation to serious cardiovascular and liver diseases. Now is the time to reassess your sugar intake, understanding that cutting back involves more than just willpower—it’s about safeguarding your health in a world overwhelmed by sweets.


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