The arrival of Halloween means candy, trick-or-treating, and more candy. Not to mention it’s the unofficial kickoff to the sugar-laden holiday season. Sugar—delectable little granules that persuade us to eat entire bowls of candy in one sitting. We’ve all been there.
As an educated society, we know too much sugar is bad for us. And research continues to prove how dangerous added sugar can be to our bodies. But that doesn’t stop us from reaching for candy or a slice of pie. It is estimated that Americans eat an average of 20 tablespoons of added sugar a day. That’s a huge amount of sugar—and a huge disconnect.
Sugar can be hard to deny because of its effect on the brain. Sugar creates a surge of dopamine, a feel-good chemical that foods like fruits and vegetables don’t cause, so your brain starts craving the feeling. Over time, we need more sugar to create the same sugar high, as our brains become tolerant to it—so it’s a vicious sugar cycle.
Dangers of Sugar
Eating too much added sugar actually increases your risk of death. A 15-year study found that participants who consumed 25 percent or more of added sugar in their daily calories were twice as likely to die from heart disease than participants who consumed less than 10 percent of added sugar. And research shows that eating less added sugar is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes in adults.
Biologists in Belgium recently conducted a nine-year study that links sugar and tumor growth. Lead study author, professor Johan Thevelein, said, “the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth.” Basically, the research found sugar fuels aggressive cancer cells, making them multiply and expand rapidly.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends women consume no more than 100 calories of added sugar per day (equivalent to six teaspoons or 25 grams). For men, they recommended no more than 150 calories of added sugar per day (equivalent to nine teaspoons or 38 grams).
Try to remember these numbers when you reach for a candy bar or a soda. A 12-ounce can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar—that’s more than your daily recommended intake of added sugar. While sugar may be hard to deny, it pays to remember that the high is short lived, and the long-term consequences are dangerous.