With Halloween coming up, it’s the perfect time to talk about the bane of every nutritionist’s existence … sugar. To be clear, I’m all about moderation when it comes to nutrition, and I do think that any food, even sugar, can be worked into a healthy diet. After all, I have chocolate almost every day! But I’m incredibly intentional about avoiding added sugar in the dozens of other food decisions I make daily, and I’m certain that when I do eat sugar, it’s worth it. It’s not the occasional chocolate that is the problem … it’s the abundance of sugar in almost every packaged food item we eat that’s the issue.
So today, I’m sharing some spooky facts about sugar, not to fearmonger, but rather to encourage you to be intentional about your sugar consumption, even as we head into Halloween and holiday season.
Spooky Facts about Sugar
- What we currently eat: The average American takes in 17 teaspoons (or 270 calories) of added sugar each day, which equates to about 57 pounds of added sugar per person per year.
- Sugar begets sugar cravings: Eating sugar consumption causes us to crave even more sugar. In fact, the effect is similar to drug addiction, and has been frequently compared in research to cocaine addiction.
- Sugar, immunity, and inflammation: Even one increase in sugar in the bloodstream significantly dampens the immune system and causes inflammation. However, an overwhelming amount of research shows the power of vegetables and fruits to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation!
- Sugar and energy: A large meta-analysis showed absolutely no positive link between mood and sugar consumption (so, even when we think that sugar will make us feel emotionally better, it doesn’t!), but did associate it with higher levels of fatigue and less alertness. Maybe that “sugar rush” is more like a “sugar crash” after all!
- Sugar and fat storage: Eating sugar makes the sugar in our bloodstream rise, which makes our pancreas release insulin. Insulin helps us shuttle the sugar into our cells (which is a good thing), but also promotes fat storage, which is why sugar consumption is closely linked to weight gain.
- Sugar and hunger: Fructose, a type of sugar, has been linked to leptin resistance, a condition in which the brain cannot effectively interpret the messages of leptin, a hormone that signals fullness. Those with leptin resistance often eat past the point of fullness, further leading to weight gain.
- Sugar and brain health: A UCLA study links sugar consumption with decreased memory, learning, and brain activity, but shows that increasing omega-3 fatty acids (like this fish oil) can help counter the effect.
- Sugar and heart disease: Those who get 25% or more of their daily calories from sugar are more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets are comprised of less than 10% added sugar, according to a JAMA study.
- Sugar and skin: Excess sugar consumption can cause aging skin, wrinkles, and acne.
- Sugar and diabetes: Research shows that people who regularly drink sugar-sweetened beverages have a 25% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In fact, consuming just one sugar-sweetened beverage per day raises risk by 13% independent of the weight gain it likely causes.
More resources for you
- This post has 10 of the most common places we find hidden added sugar (everything from ketchup to bread!), with healthier substitutes for each one.
- This post has allll the details of how to found added sugar on nutrition labels.
- You can even get a free “Subtract Added Sugar” challenge here!
Now it’s your turn … Do you struggle with sugar cravings? What’s one way you reduce your overall sugar consumption? Which statistic surprises you the most?