We all love our treats, even when we know they’re terrible for us. After all, we reason, just one little bite can’t hurt, right? Sadly, one bite usually turns into two, then three, then suddenly the entire dessert or snack is gone. Well, it’s time you knew exactly what happened when you ate those treats. Below are some of the very real dangers of sugar when consumed in excess:
Eating a “little bit” of something sweet doesn’t shut off your cravings; the opposite, in fact! One of the real dangers of sugar is that it stimulates the reward center of your brain, the same part that controls the appetite center. Sugar can affect your feelings of satiety, telling you that you need more and more. When you eat sugar, it tricks your brain into craving even more sugar, thereby setting off a vicious cycle that only ends when you cut sugar out completely.
The reward and appetite center of your brain isn’t the only part affected. The high sugar intake can mess with your brain’s levels of proteins and fats, both of which are critical for brain function. Animal studies have indicated that high levels of sugar intake can make learning and memory functions less efficient. People who eat a lot of sugar have a hard time absorbing and retaining new information.
When you eat a lot of sugary foods, your body is less efficient at producing collagen, the protein that keeps your skin fresh and healthy. In fact, excess sugar can actually hinder collagen production, leading to a decrease of skin collagen. People who eat a lot of sugar tend to develop wrinkle, age spots, and sagging skin far faster because of sugar’s tendency to interfere with collagen. The only sugar that won’t mess with your skin health is fruit, so it should be your priority if you need something sweet to eat.
Sugar speeds up the oxidation (decay) process of your body’s cells. While a bit of oxidation is normal and necessary for cellular turnover, too much can actually lead to serious problems. The oxidation can lead to damage in your organs, tissues, even your muscles. Your chance of health problems—everything from kidney failure to liver disorders to cataract—rises the more sugar you eat.
A sugar rush is the name given to the influx of glucose that your liver sends out into your body as it processes the sugar you eat. Some types of sugar and refined carbs are processed quickly, so they’re sent out in a rush. This gives you a short boost of energy, but leads to a pretty drastic energy crash afterward.
Sugar doesn’t just lead to weight gain; it increases the amount of fat you have stored around your body. Your liver can only metabolize so much sugar per hour—eat more than that amount, and your body immediately turns it into fat to store. Not only does this strain your liver, but it increases the presence of visceral fat, the type that causes higher risks of obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Yes, sugar is one of the most addicting substances in the world. First off, it affects your brain by stimulating the reward center, triggering a release of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that fires when we like something, telling us we want more of it. Overstimulation of dopamine neurons caused by high sugar intake actually causes those receptors to become less sensitive to the neurotransmitter, so it will take more and more sugar to trigger those “highs”.