You probably already know that you should be reducing the amounts of saturated fats and salt in your diet, but you may not realize that there is also a connection to the amount of sugar you consume and how it affects your longevity. In fact, some experts are saying that sugar is posing a significant risk to your health, especially to children and adolescents.
You undoubtedly know that sugar is not good for you, and that it is incredibly easy to get too much sugar in today’s diet consisting of too many processed foods, slurpees, and pop. Of course, there are natural sugars found in fruits, but this does not mean that you should avoid fruits too. Although fruits contain sugar, they are also high in antioxidants which neutralize free radicals and keep them from damaging your DNA and cells. Fruits also contain other beneficial components such as fiber, which is important for digestive health.
So why exactly is sugar bad for you, and how does it affect how long you live?
Sugar consumption contributes to obesity. There are a number of ways in which this occurs, but simply put, when you eat sugar, the hormone insulin is released into your bloodstream. Insulin is needed to allow your body to store blood sugar in your cells so that the sugar can be used for energy when it is needed. However, when insulin levels are always raised in your bloodstream, the tendency is to gain weight.
Another way that sugar consumption has been found to contribute to obesity is through “leptin resistance.”
Leptin is a hormone that is supposed to be secreted when you have had enough to eat. However, when your body develops leptin resistance, it doesn’t recognize when it has had enough to eat and will overeat, leading to increased risk for obesity.
2. Heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes
With obesity, comes increased risk of cardiovascular events that involve your heart, its blood vessels, and/or your brain. In addition, your risk of type 2 diabetes increases with obesity. These can all affect how long you live or the quality of your life.
At this time, there are no studies confirming that high sugar consumption causes cancer. However, other studies have demonstrated that certain cancers such as those of the pancreas, prostate, colon, and rectum seem to be increased with sugar intake.
So what should you do?
• Limit your sugar intake overall.
• Make wiser food choices. Eat fresh fruits, but focus on vegetables and avoid fruit juices which do not contain the beneficial fiber. Also avoid dried fruits.
• Eat proteins.
• Choose unrefined, whole-grain foods such as brown rice vs. refined breads and pastas (white bread, instant rice).