Your taste buds may think sugar is sweet, but the rest of your body begs to differ. Sugar is high in calories, but void in any other beneficial nutrients; yet, the average American gets at least 10 percent of his calories from added sugar. For one in 10 Americans, added sugar contributes a whopping 25 percent of calories, according to Harvard Medical School. If you eat too much sugar, scaling back is vital to your health.
Packing on the Pounds
Eating too much sugar can set you up for weight gain. Sugar not only contributes excess calories, it increases fat storage and sends signals to your brain that you're hungry, which can lead to overeating. Foods that contain a lot of sugar, such as cookies, cakes and pies, are also high in fat and calories, which also contribute to weight gain. In fact, Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric neuroendocrinologist at the University of California - San Francisco, blames the increase in sugar consumption for the rising obesity epidemic.
Wreaking Havoc on Your Heart
A diet high in sugar may increase your risk of dying from heart disease, even if you aren't overweight, according findings from a study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" in 2014. Participants in the study who took in 25 percent or more of their calories in the form of sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease than participants who took in less than 10 percent of their calories from sugar. Although the exact mechanisms by which excess added sugar contribute to heart disease are unclear, researchers speculate that a high-sugar diet may raise blood pressure and cause the liver to deposit more fats into the bloodstream.
Eroding Your Enamel
Excess sugar intake is also linked to an increased risk of developing cavities. The bacteria that live in your mouth feed off the sugar, creating acids as a byproduct. These acids lower the pH of your mouth, destroy the enamel on the surface of your teeth and make cavities more likely. It's not just the amount of sugar you eat, but how you consume it. The longer the sugar sits in your mouth, the more likely it is to cause damage.
Moderation Is Key
Women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons, or 100 calories worth, of added sugar, while men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons, or 150 calories worth, per day, recommends the American Heart Association. To put this in perspective, a 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 8 teaspoons of added sugar and 130 calories.
- Harvard Medical School: Eating Too Much Added Sugar Increases the Risk of Dying with Heart Disease
- Journal of the American Medical Association: Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults
- Cleveland Clinic: Eating Too Much Sugar? Tame Your Sweet Tooth
- Better Health Channel: Sugar
- NHS Choices: Is Sugar Causing the Obesity Epidemic?
- University of California San Francisco: Sugar is a Poison, Says UCSF Obesity Expert
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Sugars and Dental Caries
- American Heart Association: Added Sugars