Too much sugar in your diet can have a significant impact on your health, increasing your risk of serious health conditions and affecting your wellbeing too. The NHS recommends no more than 30 grams of sugar per day, which is roughly five rounded teaspoons of sugar.
By reducing how much sugar you consume you can improve your health in a host of ways. Here are six benefits of cutting back on sugar:
Foods and drinks containing high levels of sugar (eg cakes, pastries, fizzy drinks, fruit juices) or highly processed carbohydrates (eg white bread, white rice, white pasta) have a high glycaemic index. This means they’re quickly digested and consequently the feeling of fullness goes away faster. That makes it more likely that you’ll eat again sooner or eat larger portions.
As high-sugar foods are also often high in calories, this further increases your likelihood of putting on weight. In contrast, low sugar and low glycaemic index foods make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Sugary foods and drinks quickly increase the level of sugar in your blood, which gives you a burst of energy. However, this spike in blood sugar levels also quickly drops — this is called a crash.
A high-sugar diet can, therefore, cause daily crashes and erratic energy levels, leaving you feeling tired and irritable.
Reducing your sugar intake and eating foods high in fibre and whole grains produces a steadier release of sugar into your bloodstream, so your energy levels remain more stable.
A high-sugar diet can cause hormonal imbalances that affect your skin, specifically triggering acne. High sugar levels in your body can also damage collagen in your skin through a process called glycation.
Collagen is essential to maintain the elasticity of your skin. When collagen is damaged by a high-sugar diet, it can make your skin appear more aged. Reducing how much sugar you consume can, therefore, improve your skin health.
Whenever you eat a meal, it’s broken down by your digestive system and sugar is released into your bloodstream. In response to this increase in blood sugar levels, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin to bring your blood sugar levels back down.
However, if your diet is high in sugar, your body can become less sensitive to insulin — this is called insulin resistance and can lead to prediabetes.
Insulin resistance triggers a vicious cycle where your pancreas produces even more insulin as it detects that your blood sugar levels aren’t reducing as quickly and as much as they should. Eventually, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas can wear out, causing type 2 diabetes.
A diet low in sugar can help protect your pancreas and prevent insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Bacteria that naturally live in your mouth feed off the food you eat. This leads to dental plaque, a slimy film of bacteria that coats your teeth.
These bacteria produce acid as a byproduct of digesting the sugar in your food. The more sugar in your diet, the more acid is produced, which can eat away at the hard outer coating of your teeth (enamel). This leads to cavities, and can also irritate your gums, leading to gingivitis and gum disease.
Reducing your sugar intake, therefore, helps protect your teeth and gums from disease.
There are different types of sugar found in foods and drinks, such as glucose, sucrose, fructose and lactose. Unlike glucose which is used by most cells in your body for energy, fructose is largely dealt with by your liver where it is broken down.
A byproduct of the breakdown of fructose is fat. If you consume lots of high-fructose drinks (eg soft drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks) and foods (eg foods containing high-fructose corn syrup), more fat is produced by your liver. This can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). If left untreated, NAFLD can lead to serious and permanent liver damage.
However, NAFLD is preventable and, in its early stages, reversible, by following a healthy diet, low in sugar.
High-sugar diets are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and high blood pressure. This is because high-sugar foods are often also high in saturated fats, which increases your risk of becoming overweight or obese and this in turn, negatively affects your cardiovascular health.
Reducing your sugar intake makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight and reduces the many disease risks associated with carrying excess weight.
If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.
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Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.
Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.
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Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager
Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.
Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor
Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.
Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing
Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.