How much is too much?
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men.
Sugar-sweetened beverages are a big source of added sugar. If you drink a can of soda every day and don’t trim calories elsewhere, in three years you’d be 15 pounds heavier. Putting on too much weight can lead to problems like diabetes and some cancers.
A study found that you’re more than twice as likely to die from heart disease, due to excess sugar, than someone who consumes less than half as much. It’s not clear why. It could be that the extra sugar raises your blood pressure or releases more fats into the bloodstream. Both can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other heart diseases.
Sugary drinks, in particular, can boost your odds for type 2 diabetes. That can happen because when sugar stays in your blood, your body may react by making less of the hormone insulin, which converts the food you eat into energy. Or the insulin doesn’t work as well. If you’re overweight, dropping even 10-15 pounds can help you manage your blood sugar.
High blood pressure
Usually, salt gets the blame for this condition, also called hypertension. But some researchers say sugar may be a more worrisome culprit. One way they believe sugar raises blood pressure is by making your insulin levels spike too high. That can make your blood vessels less flexible and cause your kidneys to hold onto water and sodium
Sugary diets are bad for your heart, regardless of how much you weigh. They can:
- Raise your so-called “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lower the “good” (HDL) kind.
- Hike blood fats called triglycerides and hinder the work of an enzyme that breaks them down.
Most packaged foods, snacks, and drinks are sweetened with fructose, a simple sugar from fruits or veggies like corn. Your liver turns it into fat. If you regularly pump fructose into your body, tiny drops of fat build up in your liver. This is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Early diet changes can reverse it. But over time, swelling and scarring can damage your liver.
Did you know sugar rots your teeth. How? It feeds the bacteria in your mouth, which leave behind acid that wears away your tooth enamel. Sugary drinks, dried fruits, candy, and chocolate are common offenders. Sour candies are among the worst. They’re almost as acidic as battery acid! If you eat tart treats, rinse your mouth with water afterward or drink some milk to neutralize the acid.
Too much sugar during the day can mess with your blood glucose levels and cause energy spikes and crashes. You may struggle to stay awake at work or doze off in class at school. In the evenings, a bowl of ice cream or cookies can pump you with sugar that can wake you up at night. It also can cut short the time you’re in deep sleep. So you may not wake up feeling refreshed.
Several studies have linked sugar and mental health problems. One of the latest showed that men who ate more than 66 grams of sugar a day — almost double what’s recommended – were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression than men who ate 40 grams or less. Too much sugar could fuel depression through swelling, or inflammation, in your brain, which is more common in people with depression.
You may know that you can get this painful arthritis from eating too much red meat, organ meats, and lobster. The same goes for fructose. When your body breaks it down, it releases a chemical called purines. That can make uric acid build up in your blood, which in turn forms hard crystals in your big toe, knees, and other joints.
You get these when chemicals in your pee turn into solid crystals. Your body flushes out some kidney stones without much pain. Others can get stuck in your kidney or another part of your plumbing and block urine flow. Too much fructose – from table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or processed foods — raises your chances for kidney stones.
Sugary drinks may add years to your biological age. DNA called telomeres cap the end of your chromosomes to protect them from damage. Longer is better. Shortened telomeres may go hand in hand with age-related diseases like diabetes.