At this point, it is safe to say that most no longer view food as a means to survive. From social interactions to formal events, foods, including decadent desserts have made their way into every social or even private setting in our lives without us even realizing it. Pastries, ice-cream, soft drinks and so many more have slowly made their way into our diets as a staple and there is far more harm that can come from it than good. If you have a too much craving for sweet foods, it can make things harder for you down the road. Here, we will discuss the dangers of sugar and the side effects of consuming excess sugar.

Identifying Sugar Sources

It isn't uncommon for anyone to desire a balance between sweet and savoury in our meals, but the former can fly under the radar if we are not too careful. Tea, coffee, soft drinks, desserts, dairy products and cereal all contain unhealthy amounts of sugar, with soda and energy drinks being the biggest culprits. While it isn't necessarily a bad thing to consume sugar as a whole, it is easy to dwell into the excess territory as the consumption for this nutrient is meant to be the least out of all according to the food pyramid.

The Benefits of Consuming Sugar

When thinking about the right kind of sugar to include for our diets, natural sugar is the most logical option. As sugar is known to be an energy source, natural sugar is not only the primary source of glucose (which is responsible for your body's fuel), but it is also the best kind of sugar for your body to break down. The easier to break down sugar, the more your body metabolises it into energy rather than allowing it to stay in your system.

Not only does the conversion of glucose result in an instant boost of energy, but the nutrient can also be saved for later. This process is known as glycogenesis and it works by creating a glycogen chain that will break down individual glucose units over a certain period of time. However, unnatural sugar does hamper the body's ability to break down the glucose, which converts excess glucose molecules to fat.

With a boost of energy also comes a boost in cognitive activity. This can be split into two parts - emotional and analytical. Contrary to popular belief, sports isn't the only dopamine inducer - sugar does also contain this feature. Dopamin is a hormone secreted by the brain when in pleasure and there are glands in our body that trigger this secretion via sugar. Natural sugars like cocoa also contain sugars and antioxidants that improve brain function as a whole and can increase alertness.

Lastly, natural sugars normally are coupled with other nutrients such as fiber, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and more. Dairy products, fruits and vegetables are examples of this and prove that the consumption of natural sugar sources benefit the body in more ways than one. This is the reason why many beverages that are considered "good for the diet" contain fruits, milk or vegetables.

Health Risks of Sugar Consumption

Even though natural sugar has a decent amount to offer, going overboard with this delicious nutrient can pose both short and long term problems. Possibly the most obvious out of the lot is the ability to gain weight easily.

Having an excess of fat is never a good thing and the dangers go far beyond just aesthetics. By consuming a high amount of sugar, your body may develop an immunity to leptin, an extremely vital hormone that indicates when it is time for your body to stop eating. This is possibly one of the main reasons why overweight individuals also have a larger appetite than most.

High sugar also means high levels of blood sugar. With that, it comes with artery clots and eventually heart diseases. Many surveys have been conducted to substantiate this, but also have concluded that it only takes one sugary drink to surpass the ideal amount of sugar consumed in a day.

Additionally, Type 2 diabetes becomes more possible with careless sugar consumption. The surplus of sugar can result in insulin resistance that the blood desperately wants to avoid to stabilize its sugar level. This is hampered by making the pancreas a lot less proficient in dispensing said insulin in the body to moderate blood levels.

While these long term hazards are worth being wary of, the relatively immediate side effects are also a cause of concern. Acne outbreaks are not uncommon and high blood sugar leads to a spike in oil production and androgen secretion which are primary causes for acne outbreaks. Interestingly, a survey was conducted on the skin condition of those who reside in rural areas and their acne rates were almost non-existent due to the limited resources for processed food available.

Even if you manage to avoid outbreaks, the overall lack of insulin and general surplus in sugar does affect the skin by adding more wrinkles and catalysing your skin's aging process. Even though this may appear as solely aesthetic, the effects go down to details that even reach the body's chromosomes.

Telomeres are found at the end of chromosomes and serve as protection from the chromosomes from aging: sugar obstructs this safeguard and does in essence allow your body to deteriorate at an accelerated speed. And finally, it is important to heed the warnings of our dentists from a young age. Too much sugar can cause cavities easily and poor dental hygiene will result in gum decay and eventual tooth loss.

Overall, it is quite clear how easily the body can spiral out of control with just an extra serving of sugar that we don't really need. The best thing to do is keep our intake of sugar to a minimum and favor sugar sources that are more natural to reap the benefits of this potent nutrient.

Ezra Gideon, UNB and Dhaka Courier Correspondent in Singapore.

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