We all know sugar causes cavities, but that’s not all the harm that sweet, sweet candy-fuel does to our bodies. Ask any wellness coach, nutritionist or dietitian and they’ll tell you: A sugar-heavy diet is one of the culprits behind just about any ailment you can think of. We sat down with one of each of the above to find out why our bodies react so terribly to the other addictive white powder.
The Ailment: Wrinkles
Why you should blame sugar: “Sugar rapidly converts into glucose in the bloodstream, causing a sugar overload,” explains holistic wellness coach Erin Clifford. “This overload causes a reaction called glycation, where the sugar attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules. These are called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which attach to your collagen fibers, resulting in less elastic skin that’s extra prone to wrinkles and sun damage.”
The Healthy Alternative: Eat your berries! Clifford says blueberries and acai berries are high in skin-friendly antioxidants that increase circulation and fight off those unwanted “sugar wrinkles.”
The Ailment: Fatigue
Why you should blame sugar: “Sugar depletes the body of magnesium, a mineral that’s an essential part of over 800 enzyme actions—many of which involve producing energy through digestion control, absorption of the foods we eat, and utilization of proteins, fats and carbohydrates,” says nutritionist Carolyn Dean.
The Healthy Alternative: If you just can’t ditch your sweets, sip powdered magnesium citrate throughout the day. Dean says magnesium supplements not only keep you energized, but also help reduce stress.
The Ailment: Heart Disease & Diabetes
Why you should blame sugar: “Consuming a lot of sugar causes a massive spike in blood sugar, which our body responds to by pumping out insulin—the hormone responsible for latching onto sugar and removing it from the bloodstream,” explains Liz Weinandy, resident dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Studies show that too much insulin contributes to heart disease and, of course, diabetes.”
The Healthy Alternative: The World Health Organization recommends reducing your sugar intake to 5 percent of your daily calories. Unfortunately, thanks to all the extra added sugar in much of today’s food, getting down to 5 percent is essentially impossible for most Americans, but Weinandy says that even getting it down to 10 percent would be beneficial.
The Ailment: Cancer
Why you should blame sugar: “Sugar adds a ton of calories to our diet, which sends our bodies into a metabolic shift,” Weinandy explains. “This shift creates a state of overall low-grade inflammation within our bodies that is known to cause cancer.”
The Healthy Alternative: Portion control helps, as does making sure the foods you eat are meddled with as little as possible. As Weinandy explains, our bodies don’t know what to do with over-processed foods—especially in large quantities—hence their large role in causing inflammation and eventually cancer.