ILLUSTRATOR SANDY ARANAS
Sugar is so interlaced with everything we eat and drink, it's hard to imagine a world without it. But like all the good things in the world, the popular sweetener is not without its dark secrets. Just recently, the sugar industry was exposed for having funded research in the 1960s that downplayed the role of sugar and its link to coronary heart disease, while also successfully shifting the blame to dietary fat.
So before you swap that chunk of juicy deep-fried pig trotter for a slice of rum cake thinking it's the healthier choice, think again. It doesn't hurt to know some evil sugar facts first.
Sugar may be more addicting than cocaine.
A study by students at Connecticut College shows that sugar may be more addictive than cocaine. Lab rodents were given cocaine until they became addicted to the substance. The rodents were then given a choice, to continue taking cocaine or switch to sugar. And surprisingly enough, an overwhelming majority of the rodents tested switched to sugar. Other scientists have disputed this study, saying the addiction has something more to do with the taste rather than the sugar itself. But indisputable evidence shows that sugar triggers the same pleasure center of the brain as other abusive substances do.
It hinders brain activity.
Consuming too much of the sweetener can cause neurological issues such as short-term memory loss and learning difficulties. Since our brain is the most energy-demanding organ, it uses half of all the sugar energy in the body. But research indicates that higher-than-usual levels of sugar intake reduce the production of a brain chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BNDF. Without BNDF, our brains can't form new memories and have a hard time learning.
It contributes to Alzheimer's disease.
A new study now links high levels of blood sugar glucose to the incurable disease. Increased blood sugar levels may trigger Alzheimer's disease by damaging a protein called macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), which is critical in combating the disease's early stages.
It causes acne and ages the skin faster.
Excessive sugar intake can also take a toll on your skin by making it more prone to acne and developing wrinkles. While sugar does not cause acne directly, its oxidative properties can provoke breakouts and inflammation that go throughout your entire body. Spikes in insulin increase the production of skin oils and clog the follicles, which can also worsen your complexion by degrading skin cells.
It raises the level of bad cholesterol.
If you're avoiding the revered
It causes insomnia and erratic sleep patterns.
Eating sweets too late in the night could lead to a sudden jolt of energy at a time when you should be slowing down and resting. Serotonin (also called the 'happy hormone') is mass produced in your gut and is vital in the production of melatonin (the relaxation hormone) which is crucial in helping you fall asleep. Unfortunately, consuming too much sugary snacks causes a bigger problem by depleting serotonin stores and delaying your body's release of melatonin over time.
It promotes weight gain.
Weight gain and obesity have always been synonymous with consuming fat, but that's not always the case. While to a certain extent, fat consumption contributes to weight gain, the other culprit–and with good studies to back it–is sugar. The explanation to this is relatively simple: Your body can only use a certain amount of energy from the sugar you consume. Anything excess will be stored as fat. It starts accumulating inside the liver, and in places where it shouldn't be, like the gut.
It causes diabetes.
Diabetes is probably the most well-known disease linked to excessive sugar intake. But in case you don't know yet, this is actually a myth. According to the American Diabetes Association, sugar, in its pure form, does not directly cause diabetes. Being overweight does. You gain weight when you take in more calories than your body can use, and sugary foods and drinks contain a lot of calories. So sugar does play a role in diabetes, albeit an indirect one.