By Erin Young
We all know to go easy on the sweet stuff, but what actually happens to your system when you indulge? Here, eight ways sugar affects your body.
Your brain suffers
Fructose—the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit and is a component, with glucose, of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
and table sugar—lights up the brain’s reward center. But over time, a diet packed with fructose (especially from HFCS) can make it tougher to learn and remember, animal research suggests. To stay in peak mental shape, try sticking with whole foods like fresh produce and snack of foods that are packed with nutrition.
You want to eat more
By revving the brain’s reward and appetite center, fructose can interfere with feelings of satiety,or feeling full. Translation: That 3pm cookie may not curb your craving after all. You’ll just want two.
Skin ages faster
Too much sugar can hinder the repair of collagen, the protein that keeps skin looking young. A steady diet of sugary treats can result in reduced elasticity and premature wrinkles. Indulge your sweet tooth with a serving of fruit instead.
Excess sugar is stored as fat
Pause before you slip that additional packet into your a.m. coffee. The liver has an innate capacity to metabolize sugar and use it for energy—but only to an extent. The fructose that’s left over is converted into fat in the liver, raising your risk of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease.
Your cells pay a steep price
Sugar accelerates the oxidation process in our cells. Healthy cells are attacked by free radicals that destroy or mutate the healthy cell. For athletes, this means poor recovery. The result? Proteins, tissues, muscles and organs can become damaged, and our risk of health conditions, including liver disease, kidney failure, and cataracts, rises.
You get hooked
Eating sugar leads to the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes us like something and want more of it. As dopamine receptor neurons get overstimulated, the number of receptors to bind to decreases, so you’ll need a bigger hit of dopamine to get the same rush. Three Hershey kisses after lunch today, five tomorrow…
Stress eating begets stress
Sweets can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the near term, research shows. But continue OD’ing on sugary refined carbs and your risk of insulin resistance, which stresses the body from the inside, goes up. To find your calm, sweat instead: Exercise is the best treatment for stress. It makes you feel good and reduces cortisol.
Energy surges, then bottoms out
Refined carbs, like those in white bread and pasta, quickly cause a rise in glucose in the bloodstream, so you might feel extra energized… for a while. But this short-term fix can actually leave you more sluggish later on (when you eventually crash). Instead, opt for protein and nutrient snacks between meals, such as Greek yogurt with fresh berries or fresh veggies and hummus. They help stabilize blood sugar and keep you going longer.