Consuming an excess of refined sugar is known to cause significant health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, however, it’s also been linked to conditions such as brain inflammation and leaky gut.
Below are nine ways that a high sugar diet can affect your body:
Chronic high blood sugar levels have been linked to brain inflammation and could potentially impact on those with depression.
This is because high blood sugar interrupts the supply of neurotransmitter precursors through the blood-brain barrier - particularly ones that help produce serotonin and dopamine - which can influence mood.
Too much sugar can also increase anxiety levels due to the sugar high felt shortly after ingestion being followed by a crash when blood sugar inevitably drops. This constant roller coaster of adrenaline can impact the function of the central nervous system.
Most people will be aware that exposure to high sugar food and drink can erode away tooth enamel and lead to cavities, permanent damage that can only be repaired with a filling.
However, when you eat sugar, harmful bacteria within the mouth can feed off the sugars you eat and multiply. This can eventually lead to gum disease or halitosis.
High sugar snacks are often associated with ‘breakouts’. These sugary foods can cause an eruption of inflammation within the body and, in the long-term, lead to skin conditions such as acne and rosacea.
Studies have also shown a correlation between skin aging and high blood sugar levels. Excess sugar is thought to attach itself to the collagen in our skin, causing advanced glycation.
High glucose levels can cause the blood vessels to contract and eventually harden the arteries. High glucose levels reduce the levels of the vasodilator nitric oxide in blood vessels, this increases the risk of high blood pressure and eventually will narrow down the blood vessels.
As blood that is high in glucose travels around the body, it can cause widespread damage, including to the blood vessels and kidneys. These organs play a key role in maintaining healthy blood pressure. If they experience damage, blood pressure can rise, increasing the risk of further harm and complications.
As an indirect impact on the heart, sugar has been linked to obesity - which puts pressure on the heart and contributes to hypertension and cardiac arrest.
Increased sugar levels can decrease the amount of good cholesterol in the bloodstream and increase the amount of bad cholesterol, as well as blood fats. Additionally, insulin is released in a matter of minutes to respond to high blood sugar. This rapid process raises the heart rate as well as blood pressure.
These factors all lead to an increased risk of heart disease.
The liver struggles to process excessive amounts of sugar in the blood. The unprocessed sugars are converted to fat cells, this can cause weight gain and put you at risk for fatty liver disease and, in the long-term, obesity.
The pancreas regulates blood sugar levels either by lowering them with insulin or raising them with glucagon.
When sugar is eaten in excess, insulin is constantly released to clear the glucose from the bloodstream. Eventually, the cells become resistant to the hormone and you can develop insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
KIDNEYS AND ADRENAL GLANDS
High blood sugar levels in the body damage the kidneys' natural filtration system that separates useful substances from waste products.
The adrenal glands, which sit right on top of each kidney, also manage glucose regulation. When the glands’ workload increases to manage the blood sugar fluctuations this diverts resources and can reduce the body’s ability to manage stress appropriately.
There is very little gut bacteria present in a healthy large intestine. Too much sugar in the diet can cause bacteria to migrate from the colon to the small intestine. As the bacteria thrive on the foods digesting there, it can cause bloating, acid reflux, gas, and abdominal cramping.
As blood sugar levels crash and the stress hormone cortisol is produced, the body cannot produce the acid needed to properly break down food. These undigested food particles can leak through the lining of the gut and make their way into the bloodstream, known as leaky gut.
Enzyme function is also affected which can eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies.