What Happens If You Eat Too Much Sugar

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The Consequences of Sugar Overload & Excess Sugar Consumption

The Consequences of Sugar Overload & Excess Sugar Consumption

Whether you're dealing with a one-time sugar binge or a sugar addiction, the effects of sugar overload on your system can leave you feeling more sour than sweet. To be clear, there are no inherent flaws in sugar. In fact, glucose, a simple type of sugar, is one of the human body's primary sources of fuel. When sugar is consumed in excess, it can have a negative impact on the body.

Complete Care explains why it's so easy to overdo it on sugar, what happens to your body when you go on a sugar binge, what happens to your body when you start eating too much sugar over time, and how to control your sugar cravings. In America, there are three types of sugar: natural sugar, processed sugar, and added sugar.

Have you ever wondered how much sugar you can consume in a day? There is, however, an answer to that. Sugar consumption should be limited to 200 calories (12 teaspoons) per day. The average North American consumes about 270 calories (17 teaspoons) of sugar per day, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Unfortunately, much of the sugar consumed by Americans is added sugar.

To understand why added sugar is problematic, we must first define the two main types of sugar: natural sugar and processed sugar. Natural sugar, as the name implies, is found naturally in foods. Natural sugar is commonly associated with fruits, but it can also be found in vegetables and dairy products.

Then there's refined sugar/artificial sugar. These sugars are not naturally occurring; they have been extracted from another source or altered in some way. High-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, agave, and maltose are examples of common processed sugars.

Added sugar is sugar that has been added to a food and can come from natural or processed sugar. For example, adding honey (a natural sugar) or agave (a processed sugar) to a recipe would both be considered added sugars.

The Issue with Added Sugar

The issue with added sugar is twofold. For starters, the amount of added sugars in food is far greater than the amount of natural sugars found in whole foods. Second, while natural sugars take longer to break down, balancing the amount of sugar entering your body and providing energy, added sugar breaks down quickly, causing an energy and insulin spike — and an energy crash.

In other words, not only does added sugar enter your bloodstream at a much faster rate than normal, but it also does so in such large quantities that you're effectively sugar bombing your system.

As a result, Increased rates of health problems caused by excessive sugar consumption, such as heart disease and diabetes.

What are the signs of sugar deficiency?

A holiday party, your favorite pie, a bad day at work — whatever the occasion or reason, sugar overload happens to the best of us. Unfortunately, after the euphoria of all that dopamine rushing through your body wears off, you're left with the negative effects of sugar on the body.

What causes this to happen? When you consume sugar, your body reacts by producing insulin. Insulin aids in maintaining a stable blood sugar level. Unfortunately, once the sugar wears off, your body is left with an excess of insulin and insufficient glucose to provide energy, resulting in the dreaded "sugar crash."

If your body is experiencing a sugar crash, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness and difficulty concentrating
  • Are you feeling jittery or anxious?
  • Feeling jittery or dizzy?
  • Hunger and bloating

When you have diabetes, these crashes are usually more severe and are treated as hypoglycemia. (There are isolated cases of hypoglycemia in people who do not have diabetes.)

Is sugar overindulgence dangerous? While sugar overload and the subsequent sugar crash can be unpleasant, they are rarely dangerous in healthy people. However, for those who have diabetes, even a single sugar overload can have serious consequences.

Long-term consequences of excessive sugar consumption

An occasional sugar overload is one thing, but eating too much sugar on a regular basis can have long-term consequences and increase your chances of developing certain conditions.

Sugar consumption has been linked to a variety of health issues, including:

Reduced energy and brain fog

When you consume too much sugar on a regular basis, your body is constantly oscillating between peaks and crashes. These extreme highs and lows can make it difficult to concentrate, resulting in "brain fog." They also deplete your energy, making a trip to the gym less likely.

Cravings and gaining weight

Your body will send you signals that it needs more energy in the form of hunger when it crashes. You will most likely begin to crave foods that provide a large amount of quick energy: sugary foods. Unfortunately, these cravings frequently lead to a vicious cycle of grabbing something high in sugar from the pantry, only to find yourself hungry again a short time later.

Furthermore, sugar has been shown to promote resistance to the brain hormone leptin. 

This hormone helps regulate your hunger by telling you when you've had enough to eat, so even if you're full, a high-sugar diet makes it harder for your body to tell you. 

To make matters worse, eating foods with added sugars makes naturally sugary foods like fruits taste "less sweet," making it less likely that you'll reach for an apple instead of a cookie when you're craving something sweet.

Given these facts, it's not surprising that many people have gone so far as to compare sugar cravings and the effects of sugar on the brain to drug and alcohol addiction.

Diabetes type 2

Eating too much sugar has strong links to the onset of diabetes because it can lead to obesity and insulin resistance, which are the top two risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes, and having too much sugar in your blood, can lead to health problems with your kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Diabetes is one of the most pernicious health problems linked to sugar consumption, and its prevalence is unfortunately on the rise.

Sleeping problems

When you eat sugary foods late at night, the energy spike that follows can make it difficult to fall asleep. A bad night's sleep means you'll be tired the next day, which leads to cravings for high-energy, sugary foods, creating yet another difficult-to-break cycle.

Cardiovascular disease and heart attacks

Obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, inflammation, and atherosclerosis have all been linked to excessive sugar consumption. All of these problems are risk factors for heart disease and other heart problems like heart attacks. To put it bluntly, a high-sugar diet has been linked to heart disease, the leading cause of death in North America.

Mood imbalances

We already know that sugar overload's energy highs and lows can lead to irritability and fatigue. Repeat that cycle, add in difficulty sleeping, chronically decreased energy levels (and fewer endorphins from exercise), potential weight gain, and the other potential negative effects of sugar on your health, and you've created the ideal environment for mood disorders like depression to thrive. Several studies have found that "lower sugar intake may be associated with better psychological health."

Problems with the skin

High-sugar diets have been shown to increase oil and androgen production (hormones). They've also been shown to boost the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). The former increases the likelihood of acne, while the latter accelerates the aging process and causes wrinkles.

Caries of the teeth

The sugar in sweet foods does not cause tooth decay. However, when you consume sugary foods, the natural bacteria in your mouth convert them into an acidic substance. As acids do, these acids wear down what is around them; in this case, the enamel of your teeth, weakening them and making them more susceptible to cavities.

Where can you find sugar in your everyday foods?

We're not here to make you feel bad about eating too much sugar every now and then, nor are we here to make you feel bad about eating too much sugar on a regular basis.

We are here to provide you with the tools you need to avoid consuming too much sugar, if that is your goal. The best way to do so is to reduce added sugars, and the best way to do so is to become acquainted with the various types of sugar (so that you can identify them on food labels) and common foods that are high in added sugar.

  • Sugars that are commonly used
  • Sucrose
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) (HFCS)
  • Nectar of agave
  • Sugar made from cane
  • Caramel
  • Invert honey and sugar
  • Syrup from maple trees
  • Refiner's syrup
  • Maltose
  • Molasses
  • Dextrose
  • Lactose
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • granulated sugar

Remember that these are only a few of the most common names. In reality, there are over 50 different kinds of sugar.

  • Common foodstuffs sugars added in 
  • abundance
  • Soft drinks/sodas
  • Juice from fruits
  • Milk with chocolate
  • Ketchup
  • Sauces that are pre-made
  • Sports beverages
  • Cereal and granola
  • Fruit in cans
  • Soups in cans
  • energizing beverages
  • Desserts
  • Candy

It's worth noting that many of these foods are actually drinks rather than foods. In fact, drinking water instead of other popular drinks is one of the best ways to reduce your intake of added sugars.

What should you do if you have an excess of sugar in your body?

As we've seen, it can be difficult to reset after consuming an excessive amount of sugar. However, there are some things you can do to help you feel normal again after a sugar crash. Our top picks are listed below.

Avoid guilt trips: Whether you normally eat healthy but had a one-time binge, or this is the thousandth time you've eaten poorly after swearing you wouldn't, the time to stop mentally chastising yourself is now. Beating yourself up will only make you more stressed, which will make you crave a pick-me-up.

Drink water: If you're feeling tired, you could be dehydrated or suffering from a sugar crash. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to aid your body's recovery from a sugar overdose and to maintain general health. Consume whole foods: Whole foods, or foods that have not been processed, can help provide your body with a more stable, regulated environment.

Exercise: Do you have extra energy from a sugar high? Feeling low as a result of a sugar crash? In either case, the endorphins released by a good workout can help you get through a sugar crash or lift you out of a funk if you're already in one.

Sugar overload isn't usually a medical emergency, but a lifetime of eating too much sugar can lead to health problems that can sometimes be fatal. When this happens, our ER centers are here to provide you with high-quality, patient-centered care without the typical ER wait.

Exercise: Do you have extra energy from a sugar high? Feeling low as a result of a sugar crash? In either case, the endorphins released by a good workout can help you get through a sugar crash or lift you out of a funk if you're already in one.

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