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Your body on sweets: The alarming impact of added sugars

Not all sugar is harmful to the body. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, and even grains are full of natural sugars containing vitamins and minerals that help our bodies function. They protect our systems from fighting diseases, improve our skin health, and give us an energy boost when needed without the fear of the side effects that come from consuming imitation sugars. Consuming natural sugars is an essential part of maintaining a healthy diet. Added sugars, or “empty sugars,” lack the needed nutrients for our digestive systems. Fruit or semi-sweet chocolate with a way higher cocoa percentage might not be as enticing as a beautifully decorated dessert or a beloved processed snack; however, organically sugared products still do the duty of quenching that sweetness our bodies naturally crave. However, with the constant demand of production for a faster buck, companies and plenty of restaurants use these added sugars to cut corners. This can increase consumers’ sugar addiction and lead to negative health effects if consumers continue to eat these foods with addictive added sugars. According to a study within the Medical Association, those that get 25% or more of their calories from added sugar are more likely to die from heart condition than people who eat but 10%. One out of ten people fall into that category. [1]

In fact, in line with a study in 2013, added sugars, those added to food during processing or preparation, have increased within the American diet by 50% since the 1970s, primarily due to higher consumption of high fructose syrup (HFCS). [2] In this same study, scientists experimented to figure out how such human-relative levels of added sugars, like fructose and glucose, could affect the form with lab mice over an extended period of some time. Fructose/glucose-fed females experience a twofold increase in mortality while fructose/glucose-fed males control 26% fewer territories and produce 25% less offspring. [2] Sadly, the case results revealed decreases in reproductive success and competitive ability within the male mice while the mortality rate rose among the female mice. [2] Like humans, consuming an excessive amount of unnatural sugars over time can produce identical conclusions that contribute to the rise of sugar-related adverse health effects like heart issues and diabetes.

While we all know the more we consume processed foods over organic foods can play a significant role in our health in the long term, even added sugars can play a positive part in our lives. A study conducted by the Youngstown State University yielded results showing the benefits of enjoying sugar, even at a young age, without affecting behavioral actions or cognitive abilities. The experiment stated, “Numerous studies show that sugar consumption improves athletic, cognitive, and academic performance and should increase self-control and reduce aggressive behavior. These effects are also most apparent shortly after sugar has been consumed. While the brain utilizes large amounts of glucose, the precise physiological mechanisms accountable for the performance-enhancing effects of sugar consumption are still debated […] For behavior and academic problems, limiting sugar consumption shouldn't be a treatment focus and will be counterproductive.” [3] Although the lab mice didn’t deliver positive outcomes with their exposure to added sugars within the previous experiment, the alternatives are often said about the people employed in the Youngstown State University testing. Children and adolescents showed better cognitive and academic skills after consuming sugar right before performing a test. In fact, the study also found that the results of sugar consumption on human behavior and performance is that sugar consumption, even in high amounts, doesn't contribute to hyperactivity, inattention, misbehavior, reductions in cognitive performance, or other behavior problems in children or adults. Instead, a high level of glucose, or sugar, consumption actually improves athletic, academic, and cognitive performance, and should enhance self-control. [3] Even athletes drink low-fat milk after post workouts to assist in restoring muscles quickly and replenish what the body lost during their workout including fluids, nutrients, and electrolytes. The Youngstown State University’s case study also showed that athletic abilities weren’t impaired by a sugary energy sports drink but helped enhance their skills instead. [3] The performance-improving effects of sugar consumption are a possible reason why breakfast consumption is strongly associated with school performance and why school breakfast programs are one of the foremost effective interventions to boost school performance in impoverished areas. [3] In addition to breakfast, sugar-filled afternoon snacks also improved cognitive performance in adults, moreover as in children. [3] To assist in dispelling the parable that sugar ingestion causes behavioral and performance problems, it's important to think about the beneficial role that sugar may play within the human diet. As indicated by the experimental studies previously reviewed, sugar consumption could also be essential for optimal brain function in both children and adults. [3]

Let’s face it- eating the healthier option could appear boring and uninviting compared to the processed foods we all love, but, believe it or not, there are some great alternatives that won’t leave you feeling as if you’re eating a rabbit’s diet just to stay healthy. Greek yogurts and nut butters may contain a bit little bit of added sugars, but they're certainly a way healthier option compared to a chunk of cake. It is vital to require a detailed look at what you're snacking on. Late night munchies creep up on us every now and then, causing us to crave those sweets snacks or maybe even something salty. Something that may seem good for you may be loaded with added sugar which will derail your whole day. [4] It’s a good habit to keep low-sugar ingredients or snacks in mind for these sudden cravings. Don’t know where to start? Good Housekeeping Home supplied a beautiful simple list called “35 Best Low-Sugar Foods to Satisfy Every form of Craving,” which provided a suggestion of snacks that fall within the single digits range for added sugar- meaning none contain quite 8 grams per serving. [4] Good Housekeeping Home also advises readers to, “make sure it's as low in total sugar as possible compared to others on the shelf, which sugar isn’t the primary or second ingredient. Sneaky names for added sugar include rice syrup, agave nectar, honey, syrup, corn syrup, high-fructose syrup, saccharide, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, molasses, caramel, and glucose or glucose syrup.” [4] There are many varieties of low-sugar snacks that may satisfy any craving from salty chips to sweets. Cauliflower and chickpea chips are loaded with fiber without compromising the flavor. Trade the late-night brownie snack for a dollop of Greek yogurt with a handful chocolate chips and fresh fruit. These goodies combine protein, fiber, and good-for-you fat without loading you up with the added sugar found in many processed foods and desserts. [4]

As stated prior, not all sugar is bad for us. Our bodies naturally crave it and need it as a source to function correctly. It would be more detrimental to eliminate sugar than reduce our intake of unnatural sugars completely. As studies have shown, there are many benefits to sugar that also contribute to the cognitive skills in growing minors and adults and even positively impact performances in athletes. Stress can even be reduced after consuming some sugar. Everything we eat should be consumed in moderation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You should take comfort in knowing that consuming a treat as simple as a cookie or scoop of ice cream every once in a while won’t be detrimental to your health, and it can even be beneficial.

If you feel that your sugar intake may be affecting your health negatively, try making small steps to lower the amount of added sugars you consume, or consult with a nutritionist if you feel you need help with maintaining a healthy change in your diet.


1. BGZ Foods. (2021, July 25). Retrieved from BGZ Food Philippines:

2. Flora, S. R., & Polenick, C. A. (2013). Effects of Sugar Consumption on Human Behavior and Performance.

3. Ruff, J. S., Suchy, A. K., Hugentobler, S. A., Sosa, M. M., Schwartz, B. L., Morrison, L. C., . . . Potts, W. K. (2013, August 23). Human-relevant levels of added sugar consumption increase female mortality and lower male fitness in mice.

4. [11] [12] [13] Pirie, K. (2021, May 25). 35 Best Low-Sugar Foods to Satisfy Every Type of Craving. Retrieved from Good Housekeeping Home:



Author: Emily Pau

Editor: Lauryn Agron

Health scientist: Aseelah Saiyed

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