Even if it seems healthy, check the label — there's probably added sugar. Credit: thinkstock
Bet that greasy doughnut was delicious. Here’s the bad news: All that tasty trash is screwing you up — inside and out. From weight gain to diabetes, a diet high in processed sugars is going to make you old, fat and ill. Anne Alexander, best-selling author of “The Sugar Smart Diet” and editorial director of Prevention magazine, tells us why we should give sugar the middle finger.
It’s being added to everything
According to Alexander, Americans alone are eating an average of 130 pounds of sugar a year — that’s 22 teaspoons a day. They’re getting the bulk of it from processed foods, not natural sources. Why? Companies use it in lieu of fat to bump up the taste. Even healthy foods are full of it: “Yogurt, for example, often contains the same amount of sugar as ice cream,” Alexander says.
It’ll make you moody
Overconsumption of sugar causes mood swings. “Every time you eat a sugary meal, your brain releases a feel-good hormone known as serotonin. So for about half an hour, you’re on a high (you may have noticed you have more of a sweet tooth when you’re feeling low). But right after that sugar rush comes a crash,” says Alexander.
It makes you look bad (and old)
A lifetime of sodas and candy will accelerate age-related damage. “Sugar speeds up the breakdown of the protein fibers responsible for keeping the skin firm and elastic,” she says. “Once these have been damaged, the skin takes on a more brittle, saggy appearance. ... Sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules. The more sugar you eat, the more [molecules] are produced, and as these build up they damage the proteins nearby.”
It makes you ill
“People worry about cavities and putting on weight — but at no point do they think about the effect their diet is having on their actual health,” Alexander says. “A diet high in processed sugars has been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It can drive up your cholesterol and cause excess insulin in the bloodstream, which in turn takes its toll on your arteries. A recent study found that for every extra 150 calories from sugar available per person each day, diabetes prevalence rises by 1.1 percent.”
Beware the spare tire
“Sugar per se isn’t going to make you gain weight; eating too much of it on a daily basis will. The new research coming out on pure fructose is troubling: It stimulates your appetite and causes you to gain weight really quickly via a process known as lipogenesis. Many manufacturers have figured out a way to make super-concentrated fructose, which promotes hunger and speeds up the body’s ability to make fat,” explains Alexander. And as fructose causes globules of fat to be stored your abdominal organs, you develop a flabby gut.