What You Need to Know About the Dangers of Sugar Before You Binge This Season

Back away from the candy bowl, and read these four reasons why overdosing on sugar is more harmful than you think.
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Back away from the candy bowl, and read these four reasons why overdosing on sugar is more harmful than you think.

Ah, the season of pumpkin pie, caramel apples, and candy bars.

Before you dip your paws into the candy pot, you may want to rethink indulging your sugar addiction this Halloween. Sugar has gotten a bad rap over the years, but the effects of sugar on our health has been downplayed for decades. A new study published in September by the Journal of the American Medical Association is shedding light on how researchers undermined the links between consuming added sugar and coronary heart disease.

The recent JAMA study found that in the 1970s, the sugar lobby paid Harvard scientists to manipulate studies in the New England Journal of Medicine pinning fat and cholesterol for coronary heart disease. In the decades since, public health policies have led Americans to consume foods marketed as "low-fat" or "fat-free," giving the sugar industry an in to fuel our nation’s sweet tooth. Yet according to the researchers, sugar could even be an bigger culprit of heart disease.

With so many recent studies revealing the unhealthy truths about added sugars, public health awareness is taking a turn for the better. So, if you find yourself addicted to sugar like I am, here are four reasons to kick your sugar binges to the curb.

01. Added sugar leads to weight gain.

Trying to maintain a healthy weight? Sugar won’t help. Having a diet high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and being overweight. A 2010 study found that drinking just one beverage with added sugar per day led to weight gain and incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in young and middle-aged women. Foods with added sugar—salad dressings, sauces, syrups, jams—could be causing you to gain or maintain unnecessary pounds.

Scientific research by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reports that diets “low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains are associated with favorable outcomes related to healthy body weight.”

02. Too much sugar is bad for your health.

Research links excessive sugar consumption to diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers. The risk of developing diabetes, for instance, increases by 44 percent when we maintain a diet high in refined sugars. And paying attention to the foods you consume can help lower your risk of getting certain kinds of cancers, including breast cancer. This holiday, skip the tricks and eat treats close to nature.

03. Sugar is added to more foods than you think.

Sugar has become a staple of the American diet because the industry has had so much influence on food marketing. Yogurt, for instance, may be labeled "fat-free," but it could be loaded with sugar. Founder of True Health Initiative, Dr. David Katz, writes, “Excess added sugar is one of the principal liabilities of the prevailing American diet.” It is hiding in products that you wouldn’t expect, like bread and milk, under at least 61 different aliases. By disguising added sugar under other names, like barley malt and dextrin, product companies are able to hide much more of it on their ingredient lists. It is added to many foods in our regular diet to hook our taste buds and keep us coming back for more.

04. Sugar is addictive.

No really, sugar is actually addictive. According to a 2013 research review by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Available evidence in humans shows that sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs.” According to the authors, "Past selective evolutionary pressures for seeking and taking foods high in sugar and calories [may] explain why many people can have difficulty to control the consumption of foods high in sugar when continuously exposed to them." Trying to satisfy your sweet tooth is only going to make you want to keep eating more of it, which leads to inevitable health problems.

If you’re worried about how you are going to satisfy your sweet tooth this Halloween without binging on sugar, try opting for healthy snacks such as nuts or granola. Instead of starting your day with baked goods and a caffeinated cup of cream and sugar, try plain yogurt topped with fruit and a hot cup of green tea. If you’ll be tempted to dip into your Halloween candy bowl, pass out treats that you personally don’t like. And when you have a hankering for something sweet, practice savoring a piece of high-quality dark chocolate, which has heart-healthy benefits of its own, this 2015 study reports.

Just because sugar overload is bad for you doesn’t mean you have to dread Halloween (or any holiday for that matter). And if you mess up? It’s not the end of the world. Load up on high-fiber foods, protein, and plenty of water to get back on track.

Photo Credit: The Mullers