Sugar stimulates the pleasure center in your brain, triggering the release of dopamine, a chemical that affects emotions, movements and sensations of pleasure and pain. Simply put, eating sugar makes you feel good.
But the pleasure effects of sugar aren’t enough to counteract the negative effects sugar can have on your body. Do you know what happens in your body when you give into that craving for something sweet? Here’s what you need to know about how sugar affects your body and your health.
Sugar triggers the pancreas to secret insulin, which then tells the body to burn glucose as energy. Sweet treats are often overloaded with sugar (aka glucose) that overwhelms the body leading to a quick “sugar high.” The brain then responds by releasing serotonin, a sleep-regulating hormone, triggering the infamous “sugar crash.”
Insulin blocks the production of leptin, the hormone that tells your body when it’s had enough to eat. The more sugar you consume, the more insulin the pancreas produces, blocking this essential hormone and leading to increased cravings and, ultimately, weight gain.
When the pancreas works overtime to produce enough insulin, it can result in total-body inflammation, putting you at an even greater risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Fructose, another form of sugar often found in sweet treats, can lower HDL, or “good cholesterol” in the blood, spurring the production of triglycerides, which increase your risk for heart attack or stroke.
Eating too much added sugar can overload the storage space of the liver, resulting in deposits of fat in areas of the body including the thighs, buttocks, stomach and breasts. It can also remain on the liver, which may build up over time, resulting in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Sugar consumed in excess increases your chance of becoming overweight or obese due to the fact that sugar stimulates pleasure in the brain and can override the feeling of fullness, leading to overeating.
Dopamine’s link to the reward center in the brain can trigger addiction. People who eat high amounts of refined sugar may begin to seek out sweet foods that produce the same happy, positive feelings over and over again, resulting in a sugar addiction.
Want to make one simple change to improve your health in the New Year? Protect your body against heart disease and stroke, prevent inflammation and avoid the sugar crash by reducing or altogether eliminating added sugar from your diet. It’s not just about avoiding sweets and sodas; read the nutrition labels on the food you purchase and skip any food products containing sugar, fructose, sucralose, dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, lactose and maltose. (To learn more names of added sugar, read this article.) Some whole foods, such as fruit, contain naturally occurring sugars, which are healthy when consumed in moderation.