Let’s examine how sugar affects the body—a topic that continues to grow in popularity. Learning more about how sugar affects your organs and bodily functions will help you make the best choices for your body without having to say no to all guilty pleasure foods.
In a similar vein, be aware that you should take the negativity you often hear about sugar with a grain of salt, as it’s not actually so “bad” for you. Your body needs some amount of sugar to function properly, the critical thing to consider is where it comes from, as its origin determines how the body processes it.
But how can you know what kind of sugar is best, what amount is too little, and how much is going overboard? Find out in this article as we take a look at what you need to know about sugar and how it affects the body.
Understanding What Glucose Is and How Sugar Affects the Body
Glucose, or blood sugar, is the primary source of energy for the body. When carbohydrates are consumed, our digestive system converts them to glucose, and our blood sugar levels rise. In response, the pancreas produces insulin, which is required for the cells in the body to utilize the sugar.
Some excess glucose is stored in the liver. When fasting—or going several hours without eating—the body releases this sugar to feed the cells. It’s clear that there are several crucial things to understand about how sugar affects the body. As you’ll soon read, it’s not just vital, but it can also be dangerous. In other words, it can be both good and bad. It all depends on how you approach it and what you do with it.
What Can Happen If Your Glucose Levels Are Consistently Too High
Short-term elevated glucose does not harm the body. Over time, however, a person can become insulin resistant due to several factors—such as weight, genetics, and lifestyle habits. When insulin resistant, the body may not lower blood sugar as efficiently, causing your glucose levels to remain elevated.
Elevated glucose over time can lead to hypertension, damage to the central nervous system, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It contributes to a heightened risk of mental health problems like stress, depression, and anxiety too.
Excess sugar in the blood can also decrease the elasticity of your blood vessels and lead them to become too narrow. This impedes normal blood flow and can cause high blood pressure. In addition, when people have poor circulation due to this, it affects their body's ability to heal wounds and infections because of the low supply of oxygen, blood, and nutrients.
In some individuals, when an initially small infection in a limb goes unnoticed for a long time in their already weakened system, the condition has been known to sometimes result in ulcers, tissue death—or in extreme cases, even amputation. Too much glucose can also eventually lead to vision issues, kidney problems, urinary system difficulties, digestive system challenges, metabolic struggles, and fertility complications.
This is not to say that sugar is a scary or evil substance. Again, everyone needs glucose for their body systems to function. It's valuable that you learn about how sugar affects the body. Without it, your body would be lacking an important substance, and things wouldn't be able to function as they should. When blood sugar levels get low, people tend to start feeling faint. The key is to balance your glucose levels, and we have tips on how you can do just that.
How You Can Start Taking Control of Your Glucose Levels
While it’s important that you do have some sugar in your diet, you shouldn’t be going out of your way to do so, as sugar is almost too easy to come by in this day and age. There are plenty of natural places to get your daily sugar intake. Things like sodas, candies, and junk food are not healthy sources of glucose, as they can push your blood sugar levels too high and increase your risk of diseases.
In other words, avoid snacks and beverages with added sugars—that is, sugar that is purposefully added. Your body obtains necessary glucose through fruits, vegetables, and grains and doesn’t need added sugars to function.
Also, aim to steer away from other sugar-concentrated beverages like artificial juices and sports drinks. These foods digest fast and raise blood sugar very quickly, which puts stress on the pancreas. If you’re already insulin resistant, this can cause your blood sugar to soar—and stay elevated. Instead, try choosing zero-calorie beverages.
Select foods that are higher in fiber like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber can be an opposing force to sugar.1 Fiber helps slow the absorption of sugars into our bloodstream, thereby helping keep our blood sugar levels more stable.
It has been well researched that people who consume healthier sources of nutrients have a significantly lower incidence of chronic diseases. Focus your dietary efforts on having a well-balanced plate rather than putting emphasis on any one food or nutrient group. By knowing how sugar affects the body and providing this balance, you may improve your carbohydrate selection at each meal.
In addition to working to achieve a healthy diet, make sure that you’re staying active. Make a point of this not only because exercise burns calories and helps maintain a healthy body weight, but because being active also makes the body more sensitive to insulin, improves circulation, and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. If possible, plan to get around 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity into your schedule each week.
See to it that you’re also managing your stress and sleeping well. Stress and poor sleep can both throw your hormones out of whack. When sleep-deprived, the body produces less insulin and is more likely to produce more stress hormones like cortisol, which can make the body even more insulin resistant.
Failure to get enough shut-eye regularly is, in fact, an often overlooked—yet significant—risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes, as it leads to an excess of glucose remaining in the bloodstream. And as you learned, this can ultimately also turn into future health problems like heart disease.
Now That You Know How Sugar Affects the Body, Make It Personal
You now have a better understanding of how sugar affects the body. However, it would be best if you made a mental note that the things we eat affect everyone’s body a bit differently. Take the advice in this article as a starting point, but not as an exact science or end-all-be-all. Let these tips serve as guidelines to help you begin to build a healthier life.
To customize your journey, be sure to add our FREE sample report into the mix. This will give you an idea of what your personal report could look like, which will help you decide whether you want to go the full route of personalizing your health regimen with a complete report. You get maximum results when your plan is tailored to your body’s individual needs.
Analyzing your genetics will give you a personalized experience tailored to you. It will provide you with a specific direction in the changes you should make to your current lifestyle—not tips that are generally healthy for just anyone’s body. Make it about you and your goals rather than someone else’s.
1. Boeing H, Bechthold A, Bub A, et al. Critical review: vegetables and fruit in the prevention of chronic diseases. European Journal of Nutrition. 2012;51(6):637-663. doi:10.1007/s00394-012-0380-y.