The Fast-Acting Consequences of Sugar
Many facets of modern life directly contradict our Stone Age hardware, and one of the greatest challenges is sugar.
For our ancestors, sugar was a rare resource. High in energy and often delightful in flavor, sugar was not readily available for hunters and gatherers. Today, sugar is often added to foods to improve taste, which means that every part of every meal of the day could be loaded with sugar.
And loaded is not an exaggeration. In a previous article, I wrote about how the average American consumes three pounds of sugar per week, or 1,185 grams more than the recommended World Health Organization consumption levels. Some of this extra sugar comes from an addiction to sugary foods like candies and sodas, but it also comes from seemingly benign foods that contain added sugar. For example, a tablespoon of ketchup can contain a full teaspoon of sugar (or 4 grams).
As our sugar intake goes up, our inflammatory reactions follow suit, often running alongside a growing waistline and the many risks that come with carrying extra pounds.
But you have heard the story about obesity before. For many, the consequences of obesity-related diseases seem far-off, but the research says something different. We are learning that a high-sugar diet can lead to almost immediate health consequences.
1. This is Your Brain on Sugar
We learned earlier this year that a high sugar diet can impact your brain health in as little as a few days, and that the effects of sugar on the brain are so profound that some medical professionals have started to refer to Alzheimer’s disease as “Type 3 Diabetes.” With our memories being one of the most valuable aspects of our health, a diet high in sugar threatens to undermine the rewards of spending time with your loved ones.
2. Fast-Acting Heart Decline
A small study (early stage findings that align with current trends in research) found that just three months of a high-sugar diet can change metabolism and increase one’s risk for heart disease. The most startling part of this research is that even relatively healthy individuals saw a sharp increase in their increased risk in this small timespan.
3. Sugar Addiction is Real
The fast-acting nature of sugar is made even more challenging by sugar addiction. Some individuals are inherently more susceptible to sugar addiction than others, which means that a taste of sugar or sweets can trigger a binging frenzy. For sugar to have short and long-term consequences as well as the potential for addiction means that it is especially dangerous.
The good news in all of this is that if you follow the Habits of Health System—minding your portions, using the plate system, eating more vegetables and less processed foods—you can avoid the pitfalls of sugar and reap the benefits of a healthy nutrition. You may not win the battle against sugar overnight, and that’s okay. If you make consistent and gradual steps toward a healthier lifestyle, you can potentially undo the damage of a high-sugar diet and lock a longer, more vibrant life.