What do candy, ketchup, salad dressing, peanut butter, protein bars, and breakfast cereal have in common today…added sugar!
Sugar is used in processed foods to sweeten, preserve, and improve sales of processed food products (1).
A high-sugar diet impacts hormones
When we consume sugar, whether from added sugars, refined carbohydrates like white bread, bagels, rice, pasta, and fruit juice, or high-glycemic carbs (like potatoes and rice crackers), our pancreas excretes the hormone insulin into the bloodstream to “shuttle” that sugar into our cells for use or storage (7). When we constantly eat sugary foods like those mentioned above, sugar-spikes occur that encourage the pancreas to excrete more insulin into the bloodstream, which can lead to insulin resistance over time. Insulin resistance leads to chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension (2) (3).
When we consume these sugary foods regularly our pancreas begins to overcompensate, releasing too much insulin into the bloodstream.
An imbalance of insulin in the body can negatively impact other hormones, as the endocrine system (hormones) works toward balance.
As insulin does its job “shuttling” the excess sugar – blood glucose levels can drop too low which can trigger the release of more hormones like cortisol, glucagon, and epinephrine (adrenaline). When this happens often over time, body organs like the pancreas and body systems like our digestive tract and immune system become burdened and stressed (4).
A high-sugar diet impacts nutrient levels
For example, research shows that when we consume high amounts of fructose in the diet it can decrease the body’s ability to produce vitamin D and enhance its breakdown in the kidneys, which can lead to vitamin D deficiency (5). Vitamin D plays many roles in the body, it promotes calcium absorption, maintains calcium and phosphate concentrations for healthy bones, it is anti-inflammatory, is involved in neuromuscular and immune function, glucose metabolism, and more (8) (6).
Tips to reduce added sugar in the diet
Excess sugar is associated with obesity and many chronic health conditions today, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that men consume less than 36 grams (9 teaspoons) and women consume less than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugars each day as a guideline (9).
Here are a few tips to help reduce your intake of added sugars:
· Consume a varied, whole-food diet
· Swap out sugary drinks (soda, energy drinks) for water or unsweetened teas
· Snack on whole fruits and nuts/seeds rather than sweets and chips
· Blend up some whole frozen fruit for a sweet treat in place of ice cream
· Swap out sugary boxed cereals for a bowl of rolled or steel-cut oats with fruit and cinnamon