- Increased hunger and weight gain
If you’re consuming a lot of extra calories from added sugar, increased hunger is one of the first signs. “[Sugar] satisfies the taste buds, but it doesn’t really fill or fill our stomachs,” says Keri Stoner-Davies, RDN, who works at Lemond Nutrition in Plano, Texas.
Without the protein, fiber and healthy fats found in most processed snacks and sugary treats, the body quickly burns sugar and increases hunger, which can lead to mindless and even compulsive snacking, says Cording.
According to a review and meta-analysis, consuming sugar-sweetened beverages increases weight gain in adults and children.
However, it’s not just extra calories that can lead to weight gain.
According to an article published in the journal Cell in May 2016, the gut microbiome, an ecosystem of 39 trillion microorganisms, is the body’s self-defense system. A healthy gut helps our metabolism to regulate blood glucose and insulin levels and in part allows our body to use lipids and control cholesterol. “When you add sugar, it damages this ecosystem,” says Dr. Li.
The number of good bacteria decreases and the bad bacteria increase, leading to dysbacteriosis (an imbalance between these bacteria) and problems with metabolism and the ability to properly process lipids and cholesterol.
In addition, sugar can damage our fat hormones, including leptin, which suppresses hunger, Li claims. “High sugar levels disrupt metabolism, in part by affecting leptin,” says Lee. “Eating sugar makes you want to eat more sugar, which makes you hungrier.”
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If you’re feeling cranky, irritable, or nervous, stress isn’t necessarily the only cause—it could be a sign that you’re eating too much sugar.
A study published in Medical Hypotheses in January 2020 suggests that eating added sugars can promote inflammation, worsen mood and lead to symptoms of depression.
Cording says that eating a high-sugar meal or snacking without protein or fat quickly raises blood sugar levels, but as your body rushes to process everything, your energy levels drop, leaving you sleepy and irritable.
Also, when there is low glucose in the bloodstream due to a spike in insulin levels after eating a lot of added sugar, the brain’s blood sugar also drops. “Our brain is absolutely critically dependent on normal blood sugar levels to fuel it,” says Lee.
It’s important to pay attention when you feel like an outsider. For example, if you start feeling irritable an hour after a snack or at the same time every day, it could be because you have too much sugar. “If you find that this happens to you often, it’s a good opportunity to watch what you’re eating,” says Cording.
- Fatigue and low energy
Sugar is easily absorbed and digested, so if you’re tired, it could be because of the amount of sugar you’re getting from food.
“Sugar is a very fast source of energy, so no matter how much you eat, within 30 minutes you’re either hungry again, low on energy or needing energy again,” says Stoner-Davies.
Large fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels can also cause a crash in energy levels and affect overall energy levels, says Li.
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- The food doesn’t taste sweet enough
If you find that foods don’t taste as sweet as they used to, or if you need to add sugar to foods to make them taste better (think: sprinkling brown sugar on your cereal), you may be getting too much sugar.
If you try to make a healthy lifestyle, for example by switching from flavored yogurt to plain yogurt, the difference will be more noticeable.
“You train your brain to expect very high sweetness, and once you get used to that, it can be harder to feel satisfied with less sweet foods because you’re conditioned to expect high sweetness,” Cording. He speaks.
If you are replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners in your diet, you may want to consider this as well. “Many of these sugar substitutes are much sweeter than real sugar, so our brains are tricked into expecting an absurdly high level of sweetness,” says Cording. This can increase sugar cravings in general.
- Lust for sweets
If you crave sweets, you may be addicted to the pleasurable effects of sugar on your brain. According to Cording, sugar has an effect
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- High blood pressure
If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, too much added sugar in your diet may be the cause.
According to research, the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has a significant connection with high blood pressure and higher rates of hypertension.
However, Li warns that no direct causal link has been found. However, scientists know that high glucose levels can damage the lining of our blood vessels, making it easier for lipids such as cholesterol to stick to the walls of blood vessels. “When that happens, the blood vessels harden. When the blood vessels harden, your blood pressure goes up,” says Li.
- Acne and wrinkles
If you struggle with acne, you may want to consider how much added sugar you’re eating, suggests the American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Glycemic control plays an important role in skin health and acne,” says Cording. For example, one study suggests that insulin resistance may play a role in the development of acne.
Wrinkles can be another sign that you are consuming too much sugar. Advanced glycation end products, which are products of excess sugar, contribute to skin aging, according to an article published in Nutrients magazine in March 2020.
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- Joint pain
If you notice joint pain, it may not just be due to age.
According to a December 2017 study published in Arthritis Care & Research, the 24 percent of respondents with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who said food contributed to their symptoms cited soft drinks and desserts most often.
Research shows that regular consumption of sugary soft drinks is associated with an increased risk of RA in some women, including those with late-onset RA.
According to Cording, excessive sugar consumption can lead to systemic inflammation, which can lead to joint pain. However, there are several causes of joint pain, he adds, so improving your diet by reducing sweets is not necessarily a magic bullet.
- Sleep disturbances
If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you may want to evaluate what you’re eating.
According to a study of 300 college students published in the August 2019 American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, poor sleep quality is largely linked to increased intake of added sugar.
Our sleep cycles and sleep quality are regulated by light and room temperature, as well as glycemic control. “For those who consistently consume too much added sugar, this can completely ruin the sleep cycle and sleep quality,” says Cording.
If you have stomach pain, cramping or diarrhea, there could be many reasons for this, and your doctor can help you sort out the symptoms. According to Cording, one possible culprit is too much sugar, which is known to irritate the gut.
In addition, in people with co-existing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or those who have had gastric bypass surgery, sugar can also worsen gastrointestinal symptoms, says Stoner-Davies.
If fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains replace sugary foods, constipation can also become a problem.
- Brain fog
Problems with mental clarity, attention and concentration, and memory can be caused by eating too much added sugar.
Although glucose is the brain’s main fuel source, excess glucose can cause hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, as well as inflammatory effects in the brain and negatively affect cognition and mood, Cording says.
According to research, type 2 diabetics with hyperglycemia were found to have impaired processing speed, working memory and attention.
Studies show that the same is true for those without diabetes. A study that showed that high blood sugar negatively affects cognitive functions, including delayed memory, learning ability, and memory consolidation.
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Bacteria in the mouth love to feed on simple sugars, says Stoner-Davies, so if your dentist has found more cavities or you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease, you may be eating too much added sugar.
Although reducing the amount of added sugar is a good idea if you plan to consume labels; focus on whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible; and make healthy food choices. “Companies will make their food taste good — that’s part of their business — but we as people are becoming more health conscious so we can decide how much of this substance we put into our bodies,” Lee says.