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What Diseases Come From Eating Too Much Sugar?

author image Linda Tarr Kent
Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.
What Diseases Come From Eating Too Much Sugar?
Sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods add to sugar consumption. Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Eating too much sugar raises your risk for gaining weight and the health problems that are associated with being overweight. You are more likely to suffer diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and many other health conditions when you indulge your sweet tooth too often. Table sugar isn’t the only culprit when it comes to sugar. Sugar goes by many names on food labels, including corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice, glucose, maltodextrin, maltose and molasses.

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Sugar provides excess calories that are easily and rapidly absorbed by your body. That’s one reason your risk of developing type 2 diabetes rises along with sugar consumption, according to a 2004 study in the “Journal of the American Medical Association.” In fact, adding just one sugar-sweetened beverage to your daily diet almost doubles your risk, says lead study author Matthias B. Schulze.

Heart Disease

Consuming too many carbohydrates, such as sugar, significantly raises your risk for developing a lipid profile that in turn increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a 2010 study published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association.” The study focused on added sugars, defined as caloric sweeteners that are ingredients in prepared and processed foods. The higher your sugar consumption, the higher your risk for a poor lipid profile consisting of higher triglyceride levels, lower “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and higher “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, says lead study author Jean A. Welsh.

Other Obesity-related Diseases

Excess sugar intake is associated with weight gain and obesity. Being obese or overweight raises your risk for many health conditions besides diabetes and heart disease. These include high blood pressure, stroke, gallbladder and liver diseases, osteoarthritis, gynecological problems such as infertility, respiratory problems, sleep apnea and colon, breast and endometrial cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You are overweight if your body mass index is 25 or higher and obese if your index is 30 or higher.


High sugar consumption is prevalent in the United States. A 2011 study published in “Circulation” found added sugar accounted for 21.4 of daily calories among 2,157 teenagers in the 1999 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The highest sugar consumers have the poorest lipid profiles and the highest likelihood of being obese, says Welsh, also the lead author for this study. Per capita sugar consumption in 2010 was almost 132 lbs. That compares to almost 113 lbs. in 1966, 95 lbs. in 1915, 63 lbs. in 1985 and about 12 lbs. in the early 1800s.

Expert Insight

To cut back on added sugars, be wary of the word sugar in any form, such as beet sugar or invert sugar and any word ending in “ose” when reading food labels. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 100 calories a day for women and 150 calories a day for men. That’s 6 tsp. and 9 tsp., respectively.

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