Before you dive into your kids’ candy bags or munch on the leftover treats, be sure to know your facts when it comes to sugar. Though our bodies need sugars to function (especially the brain), most Americans eat amounts that far exceed recommendations, leading to weight gain and greater risk of disease. Given the time of year, we’ve gathered five spooky facts about sugar that may help curb your sweet tooth.
1. According to the American Heart Association, the average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons of “added” sugar per day—far exceeding the guideline of 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 for men. “Added” sugar refers to sugars and syrups that have been added to foods during processing. Top sources of added sugars include soda, desserts, and sports drinks. Sugar is usually added to foods to boost flavor, give baked goods texture, preserve foods such as jams, and fuel fermentation, which allows bread to rise. Unfortunately, eating too many foods with added sugar can set the stage for haunting health risks including obesity and diabetes.
2. The average American drinks 53 gallons of soft drinks per year. Many experts believe that drinking excess amounts of soda can increase your risk of diabetes. In a study published in Diabetes Care that examined more than 310,000 patients, researchers found that those who drank 1 to 2 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages were 26 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who drank it once a month or not at all. The reasoning behind this connection is that loading up on sugar-sweetened beverages tends to lead to weight gain, a risk factor for diabetes. Other studies suggest that quickly absorbed sugars over time can lead to insulin resistance. Either way, the result is Frankenstein-frightening!
3. Diets high in sugar may cause acne. Dermatologists have long debated on whether greasy, junk foods can cause breakouts. A study in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that subjects who ate diets composed of high-glycemic foods—such as foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugary sodas—had a 14 percent increase in acne. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, insulin resistance may be the culprit.
4. Diets high in sugar may increase your risk of heart disease. Eating an excess amount of fat isn’t the only thing that can hurt your heart. More and more evidence is showing that sugar plays a direct role in the health of your heart. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who had more than 17 percent of their calories from added sugars were 20 to 30 percent more likely to have high levels of triglycerides, a form of fat that is found in your blood. When you consume more sugar than you need for energy, the excess sugars form triglycerides, which are stored in your fat cells.
5. Diets high in sugar make your brain age faster. What you eat affects how you think. A diet steadily high in sugar may slow the brain, hampering memory and learning. The cause of this premature aging of the brain may be linked to glycation—a process by which sugar molecules bind to protein in the brain. This haphazard process impairs the functioning of cells, which may manifest into accelerated cognitive decline. Limit your sugar intake or you may start to look and act like a brainless zombie.
Solution: You can still enjoy sugar, just within a low-glycemic diet! Happy Halloween!