Sugar: How Does Excess Impact You?

Pancakes covered with raspberries, mint leaves and powdered sugar with text: Sugar: How Does Excess Impact You?

The sweetness of sugar is one of those things that we experience early in life. And we don’t forget it! Too much sugar can be bad for your health, but what are the exact effects of consuming too much on your brain and body? From impacting your mental clarity to spiking your blood pressure, here’s a look at the various ways that too much sugar impacts our brain and body.

Energy then Crash

While there is an initial energy boost after consuming a sugary food, this energy quickly dissipates due to spikes and drops in blood glucose levels. The most immediate effect of too much sugar is the feeling of sluggishness it induces in the body after the initial spike. Following the spike, there is a crash that makes us feel exhausted and unable to concentrate properly. This effect can even lead to fatigue-induced depression and anxiety as our brains cannot handle too many sudden changes in blood glucose levels.

Sneaky Sources

Sugar can be sneaky as well, as it is added to items that are already naturally sweet! You may find sugar in juice, milk-based drinks, and in cereal.

Not all forms are created equal. Not all sugar is even easily identified! If you have a bit of a science or Latin based language background you may have an advantage when it comes to recognizing sugars. Many end with -ose.

Milk, which has natural sugar lactose, and chocolate cookies with powdered sugar

Do you know these common names for sugar?

  • Dextrose
  • Sucrose
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Saccharose

If you look on an online thesaurus for synonyms for sugar, there are 70+ variations!

Long term effects

Physical Impact of Sugar

Consuming too much sugar can cause a range of physical issues as well. Excessive intake leads to inflammation. Inflammation can wreak havoc on our bodies, and increases risk of heart disease and stroke. It also increases cholesterol, contributes to weight gain, raises blood pressure, disrupts digestion and accelerates aging. In some cases, it has been linked with diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and cancer.

Breakfast pancakes with naturally sweet raspberries and added powdered sugar

Sugar has an impact on our teeth as well. Free sugars are one of the major contributors to tooth decay and cavities. These can not only be painful but they often require special treatment to alleviate the pain. You can protect your teeth by thoroughly brushing after intaking sugary foods.

That is a long list of tradeoffs for the short term feel good effect! So why do we still eat and crave sugar? The answer goes to the mental impacts of sugar in creating a temporary positive feeling.

Mental Impact of Sugar

Apart from these physical effects, high amounts also impact our mental functioning significantly. Eating sugary foods causes temporary feelings of happiness while also clouding judgment and impeding clear thinking. Too much over a long period of time may cause long-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating or focusing and slower reaction times – all of which are essential components of normal cognitive functioning.

The mental impact of sugar is on our grip of why do we want it. Mostly because it makes us feel good! The only thing is, this good feeling doesn’t last for very long on its own. And that is why we seek sweets again and again. Scientific studies seem to be split on what exactly sugar does to us, how long it takes, and why, but there is a definite consensus that it has an impact on our minds and bodies.

There are also certain times of year where sugar seems to be more available and part of culture. Birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies, all have more than their fair share of sugar as part of the tradition. To learn more about prioritizing your health during special occasions, see our post How to Maintain Your Habits During the Holidays.

How to Balance Sugar Impact

You can balance the effect by pairing it with foods that contain fiber, protein, fat or by exercising immediately following intake. This helps your body manage the way sugar impacts you.

Mug of hot cocoa with candy cane and sugary marshmallows

To avoid the damaging effects, it is important to pay attention to our diet and make sure we don’t consume more than necessary each day. Focus on adding nutrient dense foods into your diet that can provide lasting energy without causing health risks or impairing mental function. And when you do reward your sweet tooth, balance it with the your other food intake and your exercise plan!

Enjoy the treats when you have them, with balance and moderation!

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