Every nutritionist, dentist and parent will tell you that sugar is bad for you. It’s something we all know, and yet most Americans consume almost 57 pounds of sugar each year. It is surprisingly easy to do. Pre-packaged foods are often loaded with added sugar, even ones that the average person wouldn’t think of as “sweet”.
Too much sugar in your diet can be harmful in a lot of ways, but today we are going to focus on the fact that regularly eating lots of sugar can and will make you fat. And in more ways than one.
The main reason people eat is because they’re hungry. The body needs fuel to work throughout the day, and food is how we get that energy. The energy your body needs is measured in calories. Certain foods, like bread and grains, are high in calories while others, like celery, have almost none.
Usually these calories come along with other nutrients and vitamins that your body needs. Empty calories, though, have hardly any nutritional value at all. Sugar is the perfect example of a food that contains empty calories. No matter how much you eat, your body isn’t getting any real nutrition, just energy.
That’s fine if you need a quick pick-me-up here or there, but if you eat more calories than your body can use, it gets turned into fat. Sugar contains a lot of calories, so it doesn’t take much to overload your system with more than it can handle.
Most people think of insulin as only being a concern for diabetics. However, your insulin levels can affect your weight even if you don’t have diabetes.
When you eat a lot of sugar, your blood sugar level rises. Your pancreas then creates insulin which is what your body uses to convert it into energy. If your blood sugar level rises too quickly, the pancreas will overproduce insulin and actually lower your blood sugar level too far — which makes you crave sugar all over again.
This can be a vicious cycle, and one that is a major factor for a lot of people who suffer from obesity.
While we all have to eat, most people also really love to eat. Just take a look at how many cooking shows and high-end restaurants are out there and you’ll see that people really enjoy eating.
While there’s nothing wrong with liking what you’re eating, recent studies have shown that certain foods trigger the same reward circuit in the brain as activities like gambling or cocaine. This pleasure-eating trigger completely bypasses the brain’s normal biological triggers for being hungry, which can cause people to crave certain foods even if they are full or have plenty of calories in their system.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone with a sweet tooth that sugar is one of the biggest triggers for this biochemical response. It’s why people will still order a dessert if they are full or snack on a candy bar even if they just ate.
When you’re hungry, you eat. And when you’re regularly consuming fatty, sugary foods you are most likely replacing healthier alternatives. When you eat a lot of processed foods, it’s not just about what you’re taking in, but what you’re missing out on as well.
This goes back to the idea of empty calories. If you’re craving something sweet, you could eat a candy bar or a peach. Both have sugar, but one carries with it much more nutritional value. This is also why nutritionists always encourage people to buy fresh food rather than pre-packaged.
A high-sugar diet can cause you to gain weight in a lot of different ways. It is full of empty calories that offer no nutritional value, causes your body to create extra fat, and tricks your brain into craving more of it.
At Life Line Screening, we have years of experience helping people prevent major medical issues with vital early detection services, including A1C screenings. These screenings measure your blood sugar levels from the past two to three months and can be used to diagnose type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
We partner with community centers to help people get quick, easy access to the screenings they want to stay on top of their health. No lengthy doctor’s visits, no complicated insurance to deal with, just convenient screenings for health-conscious people conducted by trained professionals.
UCSF: “How much is too much?”
Healthline: “Recognizing and avoiding empty calories”
Scientific American: “How sugar and fat trick the brain into wanting more food”