In school, many of us learn that sugar is energy in the body, and because it’s purely energy, it can be burned off by physical activity and exercise. While it is true that the body relies on sugar in the form of glucose for energy in every cell, too much sugar can cause a huge number of problems in the body and can interfere with metabolism. Today the average American takes in approximately two hundred pounds of sugar a year, so it’s safe to say that we are getting way more sugar than our body’s metabolism was ever designed to handle!
Excess sugar has an impact on our cellular health, so simply “burning it off” through exercises doesn’t mean that there is no impact on the body. Excess sugar can seep into our bodily tissues, coat cell membranes, decrease immunity, stress the pancreas, and interfere with hormone receptor functioning, as well as a number of other damaging results.
When sugar is consumed in excess, hormones are negatively affected. Excess sugar binds to receptor sites on hormones, making them unable to bind to other protein molecules (such as the hormone insulin) they were designed to bind to. Therefore, the receptor sites are, essentially, blocked and not sensitive to the necessary proteins. When this happens frequently and hormone receptor sites are commonly blocked, the hormones aren’t able to do their job correctly, and problems such as insulin resistance and diabetes will result.
Just as too much sugar will block hormone receptors, it can also block nutrient channels and slow neural communication, which causes impaired mood and memory, leading to dementia. Sugar can weaken the bones and connective tissues, and stiffen the collagen in the joints, tendons, and skin, leading to a number of other problems such as arthritis and wrinkled skin. And because sugar is sticky and blocks cells, it will interfere with the production of new, healthy collagen.
But what causes excess sugar to be so harmful? Well, it goes back to the sticky nature of sugar. When we feel something sticky, such as sugar on your fingers, what we’re feeling is chemical bonds in the sugar breaking apart. Sugar sticking to things like your finger or the kitchen counter is a process known as glycation. Glycation is the property of sugar that is so damaging in the body.
When the bonds within sugar are exposed to high heat or are old, they become permanent because oxidation has occurred. When a bond has been oxidized, it is now referred to as an advanced glycation end product (AGEs). These AGEs are something we are actually all quite familiar with. When we toast our food, for example, oxidation occurs and produces AGEs in the sugar and proteins in the food. When this happens, the sugar and the protein molecules form cross-links that turn the food to the hard and stiff toasted form. This same phenomenon happens inside our bodies and causes our cells and tissues to become hardened and stiff. When we only intake a small amount of healthy sugar, say from fresh fruit, the body is able to control these reactions with its white blood cells. But when we eat too much sugar, the system is overwhelmed and is unable to keep up with all of the glycation happening.
But what happens when our cells become hard and stiff? When our cells become hardened due to sugar and proteins forming cross links, our semi-permeable cells become impermeable; therefore the nutrients the cell needs is not able to enter in from the bloodstream. When the cells aren’t able to drink up the nutrients floating in our bloodstream because the channels are blocked, the nutrients remain in the bloodstream until they eventually end up lining other tissues, such as our arteries. This is when we start to see the buildup of cholesterol!
Sugar also wreaks havoc on our body’s immune system. Our immune systems have white blood cells. These cells circulate in our bloodstreams and have the responsibility of destroying foreign invaders of bacteria and viruses and fighting diseases. When a cell is in need of white blood cells, it puts a signal on its surface to tell the white blood cell to come help. But when we consume too much sugar, the channels the white blood cells need to travel are blocked, preventing them from being able to do their job. As a result, our immune functioning is decreased and we are at greater risk of getting sick. Also, as we learned above, the body controls the glycation reactions with white blood cells. The more sugar we intake, the more white blood cells we’ll need to call upon, which can stress the immune system.
To summarize, when we eat too much sugar, all cellular activity is impacted! Sugar is sticky and causes reactions in the body that block pathways and entryways nutrients and other necessary molecules are designed to enter. When this can’t happen, nearly every cell and system in our body is going to be unable to function optimally. Because sugar affects every cell in our body and therefore each of our body’s systems, it would do an exceedingly large amount of good for us to consider greatly reducing the amount of sugar we are taking in, from all forms. Doing so will be one of the single greatest ways to impact your health for the better!For those special occasions when you want a sweet treat, aim for a healthy, low sugar option, such as these raw cookie dough bites:Raw Cookie Dough Bites (Grain, Sugar, Dairy, & Egg-Free)Ingredients:rn
- 2 cups blanched almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup coconut oil (solid but soft)