The effects of sugar on your body may surprise you—some are obvious, but others, not so much.
We all know that the sweet stuff is bad for us, especially when we’re eating too much sugar too often. Research has connected the consumption of added sugars with obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and even cognitive decline and certain types of cancer (just to name a few).
But the question is: How do we know how much sugar is too much sugar?
Here are seven signs that you’re eating too much of the sweet stuff.
1. You Are Craving Sugar!
One of the big reasons why sugar is so bad for us is because it’s addictive. “Sugary foods spike your blood sugar, giving you energy for a short period of time,” says Jess Pirnak, RD, a registered dietitian and founder of Food Yourself. Unfortunately, this sugar high doesn’t last. “Without the protein, fat, or fiber, your blood sugar will eventually fall leaving your body wanting more sugar for quick energy,” she continues.
2. You’re Hungry ALL THE TIME
According to Mayo Clinic, polyphagia—which is the medical term used to describe an increase in appetite—is one of the three major signs of diabetes and insulin resistance. Polyphagia happens because when you have insulin resistance, your blood sugar levels remain high because glucose cannot actually enter your cells. This makes your body think you’re hungry when you’re not. Essentially, you’ve eaten plenty of fuel but your body can’t actually convert that fuel into energy.
So what can you do about it? According to Diabetes.co.uk, a global diabetes resource and community, “The best way to lower blood glucose levels is to exercise as this can help to stimulate insulin production and reduce blood sugar levels.”
Related Reading: The Best Home Workout Options When You Can’t Get to the Gym
3. Your Energy Levels Crash
If you find yourself utterly exhausted throughout the day, your sugar habit might be to blame. “Sugary foods can negatively impact your energy levels by causing a blood sugar crash,” says Pirnak. According to Pirnak, it’s not just a casual drop in your energy levels, either. “It’s called a ‘crash’ because when your blood sugar falls, it doesn’t just fall to a normal level—it drops well below normal leaving you feeling exhausted,” she explains.
Related Reading: How to Boost Your Energy without Caffeine
4. You Get Frequent Cavities
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “When you eat sugary foods or sip sugary drinks for long periods of time, plaque bacteria use that sugar to produce acids that attack your enamel, the hard surface of your tooth.” So if you seem to have a new cavity every time you go to the dentist, it might be worth evaluating your sugar intake to see if that could be playing a role. According to the ADA, it’s particularly important to watch out for chewy sweets (like gummies or dried fruit) because they stick to your teeth and sugar-filled drinks since they are also acidic, which just increases the negative effects on your teeth.
5. Your Gut Is Unhappy!
Eating too much sugar can cause an imbalance in gut bacteria in your GI tract. According to Pirnak, it can also “increase inflammation in the body leaving your gut feeling irritated and upset.” This can lead to symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and other GI issues. Unfortunately, an unhappy gut due to too much sugar can also affect your health in other ways. “When your gut is irritated and upset you may experience abnormal bowel movements and get more colds or the flu more often,” says Pirnak.
6. You’re Moody
A handful of studies have established a link between sugar and mood disorders. In fact, the authors of a 2017 study concluded that “Our research confirms an adverse effect of sugar intake from sweet food/beverage on long-term psychological health and suggests that lower intake of sugar may be associated with better psychological health.”
So what explains this link? Experts suspect it’s because many of our neurotransmitters, like serotonin (which is also known as the “happy chemical”), are made in the gut.
7. Your Skin Is Breaking Out
If you’re experiencing more acne than usual, it might have something to do with what you’re eating. Some experts posit that sugar can increase the production of androgen hormones, which are linked to inflammatory acne. One study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, put a group of acne patients on a 12-week low-glycemic diet and found that both acne and insulin sensitivity improved. The authors concluded that the results suggest that nutrition, particularly sugar and carbohydrate intake, may play a role in acne.
Unfortunately, cutting down on your sugar intake is more complicated than taking your coffee without it. Sugar is often hiding in foods—like yogurt, salad dressings, and granola—that are considered “healthy.” As a rule, always check the nutrition facts before throwing an item in your grocery cart.
Header image courtesy of Peter Dazeley / The Image Bank / Getty Images