There are two types of sugar: those occurring naturally in foods such as fruits and vegetables and those added to foods such as pasta sauces, ready meals and juice drinks. Table sugar (sucrose) is a di-saccharide composed of one glucose and one fructose molecule.
The glucose in sugar affects our blood sugar levels, raising them quickly after we eat sweet foods and dropping them dramatically after the glucose in sugar has been taken by insulin into the cells to produce energy. That is what causes our energy slumps after we have eaten a croissant for breakfast or the need to reach for another chocolate bar only half an hour after we’ve had a Kit-Kat.
When we eat sugar regularly, our blood sugar levels fluctuate increasing the need for the pancreas to produce more insulin, more frequently. This continued demand for insulin may lead to the pancreas not being able to produce sufficient insulin to deal with our sugar intake, resulting in high blood sugar levels which if unchecked can lead to metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes. Continuously high levels of insulin can lead to our cells becoming resistant to it, resulting as well in high blood sugar levels.
Additionally, refined sugar especially the white/syrup stuff added to processed foods contains absolutely no nutrients, just empty and rapidly absorbed calories and possibly a series of additives, preservatives, colours, etc that our body will have to eliminate using nutrients and energy.
But does sugar have any other effects detrimental to health? It has been well documented in the press that research has identified several areas where sugar can be harmful. The first one is probably tooth decay: sugar promotes cavities, so reducing added sugars in the diet, especially those in sweets that have no other nutrientssuch as gummy bears or boiled sweets is a good idea, especially for children.
Research has linked sugar consumption to metabolic syndrome which is a cluster of factors including insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity and that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Glucose and vitamin C are chemically very similar and research shows that they compete for the same transporters into cells, which means that when we consume large amounts of sugar, our cells may receive significantly lower levels of the antioxidant vitamin C that helps support a healthy immune system.
Glucose also inhibits a pathway that activates the immune system when the blood cells are facing pathogens. Additionally, vitamin C activates this pathway so in the presence of high glucose level the pathway is inhibited and robbed of its activating agent.
Sugar consumption has been linked to behavioural disorders and research shows that it may increase hyperactivity, especially in children with ADHD and poor performance at school although ore research is needed to establish the mechanisms.
Glucose in sugar and refined carbohydrates has been found to increase inflammatory markers which are related to chronic diseases such as:
Atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease
Functional digestive disorders
And lets not forget that sugar is highly addictive and the more we eat of the white stuff, the more our body will be demanding to avoid energy slumps. Since sugar is just empty calories, the consequence of overconsumption is weight gain and all the health consequences attached of it.