We add it to our coffee. It’s in our favorite, on-the-go breakfasts. We sprinkle it in baked goods and pastries. And it’s lurking deep within our favorite processed foods and drinks — like those delicious Frappuccinos! There’s no denying we really love sugar.
But while sugar makes life sweeter and summer all the more enjoyable, this excessive bad habit’s consumption rate is often swept under the radar. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the average adult consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, while children consume on average an estimated 10 more. Though they don’t provide specific recommendations on how much we should consume a day, the American Heart Association suggests at least 9.5 teaspoons.
As one of the more dangerous substances we ingest on a daily basis, refined sugar is linked to a long list of ailments like obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, acne, depression, mood swings and fatigue — just to name a few.
While slashing sugar from your diet can be tricky because it’s in literally everything, there’s no need for paranoia. Watch for dietary information on labels and choose more natural choices like stevia, honey, brown sugar or agave. But if you’re not feeling 100 percent or are experiencing oddities in your well-being, chances are you might be experiencing signs of over-consumption.
Your skin is getting weird
The American Academy of Dermatology found a prominent link between our skin and diet. While it might seem like something already known, the study notes high-glycemic index foods can actually worsen inflammation, like acne or psoriasis. When we eat sugary or high-glycemic foods like birthday cake or even certain fruits, our body rapidly breaks these carbohydrates into sugars, also known as glucose. In turn, this raises insulin levels and causes inflammation that breaks down collagen and elasticity. This causes swelling and irritation that can affect our skin and exacerbate conditions like acne or rosacea. Harvard University found that acne patients who consume high amounts of sugar actually have raised levels of inflammation than those with healthy skin.
You’re moody and tired
Sugar is known to be one of the most powerful, addictive and mood altering drugs and unfortunately, it’s in everything we eat. As a substance extremely hard on your body, sugar raises blood sugar levels, providing us with a high and fast source of energy but then plummets down extremely low when we don’t keep it up. This can create abrupt mood swings and lethargy as our body over-produces insulin to absorb all of that sugar. When sugar is ingested, insulin releases and immediately begins to direct the glucose in your bloodstream. Since our brain doesn’t store glucose like fat cells can, these simple sugars are burned upon usage, meaning all that energy you utilize during a meeting or run. Our brain cells require twice the energy of other cells in our body, so when we don’t give it enough sugars or carbs, we become extremely sensitive due to unstable sugar levels. This also creates a bit of brain fog as you slow down and meet with cognitive difficulties.
You’re gaining weight in places
Sugar can be pretty sneaky. Not only can it make your skin breakout or cause you to feel tired and moody, but it can add up on your waistline without you ever realizing it. Sugar contains two molecules: glucose and fructose. We know about glucose, but did you know that fructose, found primarily in pop, pasta, certain fruits and veggies, is the culprit that adds on the pounds? Because of its effects on “leptin,” a hormone that secretes fat cells — fructose fools your metabolism into believing it’s turning off your body’s cravings as it fails to stimulate any more insulin. In turn, this fails to suppress “gherlin,” also known as the “hunger hormone,” which fails to stimulate leptin — the “satiated hormone.” Do you see the cycle? As a result, you end up eating more and developing an insulin resistance. However, when you become insulin resistant, this means you have more insulin in your blood all the time and can lead to Type-2 diabetes.
What can you do to reverse the effects?
To counteract the effects of over-consumption of sugar on your skin, there are a few things you can do to make sure you don’t fall victim to this addictive substance’s rein. For one, get plenty of sleep. If you don’t get enough rest, your body will release the stress hormone known as cortisol, which will mobilize sugar storage and cause your insulin to spike. Plus, when you get an ample amount of shut-eye, you feel more energetic and recharged, without falling into the pit of being moody or tired. While on the subject of stress, try to keep it to a minimum. Of course, easier said than done — but stress can cause damage to your insulin levels, by spiking them and teaming up with enzymes to create breakouts. Additionally, eat well-balanced meals and aim for high protein with healthy fats, like omegas that will keep skin looking youthful.