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How Does Sugar Negatively Impact Your Health?

Last updated June 29, 2015

When you eat something loaded with sugar, your taste buds, your gut and your brain all take notice. This activation of your reward system is not unlike how bodies process addictive substances such as alcohol or nicotine -- an overload of sugar spikes dopamine levels and leaves you craving more. Nicole Avena explains why sweets and treats should be enjoyed in moderation.


You may not realize how many of your favorite food items you consume each day contain added sugars. It has been shown that when consumed in large amounts, sugar can be linked to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity. It is necessary to understand the dangers of high sugar intake and the effects it can have on your health.

Added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup, fructose and sucrose, contain no essential nutrients and are high in calories. These types of calories are considered “empty calories”, as they provide no nutritional value.

The American Society for Clinical Nutrition concluded that sugar provides energy to bacteria in the mouth, stimulating it to generate acid and allowing for teeth to demineralize and break down the enamel.

A high amount of fructose in the diet has been shown to lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, a clinical condition associated with metabolic syndrome.

Insulin resistance can be negatively affected by excess sugar intake. An excessive glucose content in the blood, insulin cannot perform its proper function of permitting cells to breakdown glucose. This has been shown to lead to the advancement of type II diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

A study published by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition exposed a correlation between ingestion of beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup and obesity. They concluded that dietary fructose, found in calorically sweetened beverages, could be a factor in the obesity epidemic, as it contributes to weight gain.

It is vital to be aware of your sugar intake and the risk factors that threaten your health. Education on dietary guidelines and consequences of high sugar intake are necessary for avoiding these threatening diseases.

Additional Resources:

Touger-Decker R, Van Loveren C. Sugars and dental caries. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.2003; 78(4):8815-8925.

Gunnars, K. 10 Disturbing Reasons Why Sugar is Bad For You [Internet]. [cited 2014 Oct 27]. Available from: http://authoritynutrition.com/10-disturbing-reasons-why-sugar-is-bad/

Basciano H, Federico L, Adeli K. Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia. Nutrition and Metabolism.2005; 2(5): 1-14.

Bray G, Nielsen S, Popkin B. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.2004; 79(4): 537-543.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Oct. 28, 2014
Last updated: June 29, 2015