Sugar: Too much of a good thing?

by | Jul 5, 2023 | Straight Talk

Wow!  It tastes so good!  Let’s just start by stating that sugar is important to us.  The body uses the glucose it makes from the sugars in the food we eat to create energy, and to fuel our brain and organs.   Now that we’ve established its importance, lets understand it a bit more.

Too much sugar in the diet can cause changes in your brain function and cognitive decline as well as loss of energy and higher stress levels.  That brain function part gets a little scary as we age. 

Concerned about how you’re showing your age?  Excess sugar can hinder collagen repair as you age so that skin loses elasticity and forms more wrinkles. 

The digestive process of sugar starts in the mouth as saliva begins breaking it down before it leaves your mouth.  Then it enters the digestive tract where it’s absorbed into the body as glucose.  This, in turn, raises your blood sugar and signals the pancreas to release the hormone insulin.  Insulin then signals your cells to absorb the glucose.  That’s the way things are supposed to work.  But what happens when there’s consistently too much sugar in the system?

Constant spikes in your insulin levels will cause problems over time as the pancreas tries, but can’t keep up with the requirements.  And when there’s too much sugar stress for too long, there’s diabetes.  That’s when blood glucose levels become too high because the body can no longer properly produce insulin.  Some people are born with diabetes.   Type 2 diabetes develops over time and leads to circulatory issues, heart disease, stroke, increased infections, vision loss and ultimately kidney failure.   It’s important to know that the number of Americans with diabetes has tripled over the last 30 years. 

It’s also important to know that our bodies store excess glucose in the liver and muscle tissue until it’s needed.  Too much of the stuff and it’s converted to fatty tissue, often in the form of belly fat.   Here again we should note that the adult obesity rates in the U.S. have more than doubled and obesity rates in children have quadrupled over the last 30 years.

Dietary guidelines suggest that no more than 50 grams of sugar should be consumed daily.  That’s about 10% of your daily calories.  The problem is that added sugar sneaks into our diet in all kinds of ways.  The biggest culprits are sugary soft drinks, baked goods, desserts, and sweets, but juices, breakfast cereals and prepared foods can have plenty of sugar too.

You’re probably getting most if not all of sugar you need from the foods in your diet.  So eating and snacking habits can have a big effect on the recommended adult sugar intake.  Know that that piece of sweet banana-bread or the pastry you pick up for breakfast or a coffee break at the barista could pack 50 grams of sugar, or, you complete recommended daily intake.  If you eat much processed food, another big sugar hit is waiting.   A small bag of chips will account for 20% of your daily allowance.  A candy bar or some energy bars will account for 25-30%.  A 12 oz. can of soda can offer up 60% of your daily allotment.  You get the picture.

Should we enjoy a sweet or a desert now and then.  Of course.  The key is not to overindulge.  You just need to know the facts about how much of a good thing your body can take.