The Detrimental Effects of Sugar

The Detrimental Effects of Sugar

Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. However, when it comes to consumption and the effects of sugar, I often hear things like:

All things in moderation….

A little bit won’t hurt…

It’s fuel for the brain…

All justifications for consuming sugar in some amount. The question is: should sugar ever be consumed and if so, in what amount?

  1. Added Sugar Contains No Essential Nutrients

Sugar contains a lot of calories, with no essential nutrients… “empty calories”. It also causes tooth decay by feeding the harmful bacteria in the mouth.Sugar is just empty and quickly digested calories that actually pull minerals from the body during digestion. It creates a hormone cascade when consumed that starts a positive feedback loop in the body to encourage more consumption.

  1. Added Sugar is High in Fructose, Which Can Overload Your Liver

In order to understand what is so bad about sugar, you need to understand what it is made of. Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract, it is broken down into two simple sugars... glucose and fructose (fructose has no physiological benefit). The thing with fructose is that it can not be metabolized by the liver in any ‘significant’ amounts. This is not a problem if we eat a little bit (such as from fruit) or we just finished an exercise session. In this case, the fructose will be turned into glycogen and stored in the liver until we need it. However, if the liver is full of glycogen (much more common), eating a lot of fructose overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat.

  1. Sugar Can Cause Insulin Resistance, a Stepping Stone Towards Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes

Insulin is a very important hormone in the body. It allows glucose (blood sugar) to enter cells from the bloodstream and tells the cells to start burning glucose instead of fat. Having too much glucose in the blood is very harmful and one of the reasons for complications such as diabetes and metabolic dysfunction.

  1. Sugar Can Potentially Give You Cancer

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and is characterized by uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells. Insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth. For this reason, many scientists believe that having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of sugar consumption) can contribute to cancer. In addition, the metabolic problems associated with sugar consumption are a known driver of inflammation, another potential cause of cancer.

  1. Due to its Effects on Hormones and the Brain, Sugar has Unique Fat-Promoting Effects

Fructose doesn't cause satiety in the brain or lower the hunger hormone ghrelin nearly as much as glucose. Over time, because the calories from sugar aren't as fulfilling, this can translate into an increased calorie intake. 

  1. Sugar is Highly Addictive

Like abusive drugs, sugar causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. The problem with this massive dopamine release... is that it is much more than we were ever exposed to from foods found in nature. For this reason, people who have a susceptibility to addiction can become strongly addicted to sugar and other junk foods.

  1. Sugar is a Leading Contributor to Obesity in Both Children and Adults

The way sugar affects hormones and the brain is a recipe for fat gain disaster. It leads to decreased satiety... and can get people addicted so that they lose control over their consumption. Not surprisingly, people who consume the most sugar are by far the most likely to become overweight or obese. This applies to all age groups.

  1. It’s NOT The Dietary Fat... It's Sugar That Raises Your Cholesterol and Gives You Heart Disease

For many decades, people have blamed saturated fat for heart disease... which is the #1 killer in the world. However, new studies are showing that saturated fat is harmless. The evidence is mounting that sugar, NOT fat, may be one of the leading drivers of heart disease via the harmful effects of fructose on metabolism. Studies show that large amounts of fructose can raise triglycerides, small, dense LDL and oxidized LDL (very, very bad), raise blood glucose and insulin levels and increase abdominal obesity -- in as little as 10 weeks.


Listen, I know I am probably not telling you something that you don’t already know about sugar. Then it begs the question… why do we all (most) keep consuming it? Point is, by making you aware of some of the dangers and facts of sugar (listed above), I hope that you can put yourself into positive situations and in an environment with minimal sugar intake. Don’t surround yourself with the temptation of sugary foods and drinks when WE KNOW the detrimental effects it can have on us and our loved ones. Be smart. Take care of your body, it's the only place you have to live. 

John Hornung, MS, CSCS, SCCC