Unless you’ve been living in a cave these past few years, you’ll have heard you should probably be eating less sugar. But you might be a little rusty on the science backing these claims.
From looking younger to reducing your risk of heart disease, here are six science-backed reasons why you should eat less of the sweet stuff.
Just to clarify…
When you hear people talking about sugar in a health context, they’re mainly talking about a type of sugar called fructose.
This is the stuff that makes up half of table sugar (which is most often added to processed foods to make them palatable), and the primary sugar that the research has been linking to all sorts of chronic health conditions and diseases.
1. You’ll lose weight
Obesity has been a major topic in recent years, and with good reason. In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that a whopping 39% of the world adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.
The sheer quantity of high-sugar, high-fat foods available today is a key culprit in this scary epidemic. These foods can contain huge amounts of calories, and not much else in the way of vitamins, minerals, or anything else that’s actually good for you.
Add to this the fact that it’s so easy to overindulge in these foods due to their high sugar content – In fact, they’re specifically manufactured to leave you wanting more!
A 2013 metanalysis found that a reduced intake of dietary sugars was associated with a decrease in body weight in adults with ad libitum diets (that is, they’re diet was not restricted or controlled in any way).
And then there’s the myriad studies directly linking high-sugar soft drink consumption to obesity… guys, we don’t think it’s the bubbles doing it!
2. Your liver will thank you
The liver is a pretty amazing organ: it detoxifies, metabolises and stores excess energy (particularly fructose) as fat. But too much sugar can put a major strain on this super organ, causing a fatty build-up that can lead to all sorts of major issues.
Scientists have identified a high-sugar diet as a primary cause of liver inflammation and Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Some go so far as to say that sugar can be as damaging to the liver as alcohol, even if you’re not overweight.
3. You’ll give your immune system a boost
Sick all the time? The science is in. Western diets (ie: those high in sugar, salt and fat, and low in macronutrients) are having a major impact on our immunity. That’s our body’s very ability to keep us healthy and thriving.
A 2014 analysis accused these kinds of diets of causing a reduced control of infection, increased cancer rates and increased risk of allergic and auto-inflammatory diseases. Yikes.
4. You’ll help your heart
A major 2014 study found an association between a high-sugar diet and a greater risk of dying from heart disease.
How the sweet stuff actually affects the health of your ticker is still not completely understood, but it appears to have several indirect connections.
The study noted that consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, both of which are pathological pathways to heart disease.
5. You’ll look younger
If the chronic health issues weren’t enough – there’s some evidence to suggest that too much sugar is actually ageing you faster!
Sugar can link the amino acids present in the collagen and elastin (the magical proteins that keep our skin looking fresh), producing toxic compounds called advanced glycation end products – aptly shortened to AGEs. AGEs can cause wrinkles, sagging and dark circles under the eyes.
6. You’ll keep your pearly whites pearly and white
This one’s a little obvious, but no less worth pointing out. Sugar is a direct cause tooth decay.
Sugar is like fertilizer for the unfriendly bacteria that hang out in your mouth.
Studies have shown that one group produce a tooth-rotting acid whenever they encounter and digest any sweet stuff, while another sends your plaque build-up through the roof.
Both lead to demineralisation (that is the erosion of your protective tooth enamel) and increased risk of cavities. It might just be time to say see ya to some of that sweet stuff!