Sugar is detrimental – and this is a widely recognized fact. However, just like with all unhealthy habits, people tend to shy away from contemplating its adverse effects on health. A new compilation of nearly all the research on the detrimental effects of sugar will undoubtedly persuade anyone to abstain from its consumption immediately.
Sugar contributes to some of the most prevalent diseases affecting humanity
Researchers from China and the United States have compiled data from 8,601 scientific studies on sugar to assess its impact on 83 different health indicators. This thorough analysis spans decades of research, dating back to the inception of the largest electronic databases of scientific papers.
This resulted in a compelling list of the most common health issues faced globally. They include heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart attacks, high cholesterol levels, cancer, and depression. The studies have specifically focused on the effects of consuming free sugars. They encompass processed, or natural sugars found in foods such as honey, or maple syrup. It’s important to note that sugars found naturally in whole fruits and vegetables, as well as in milk, are not classified as free sugars.
Sugar consumption worldwide
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended limiting added sugars to no more than 10% of daily caloric intake. For a typical 2000-calorie diet, this translates to a maximum of 200 calories or roughly 12 teaspoons of added sugars per day. Even greater health benefits can be achieved by reducing sugar intake to 6 teaspoons, or approximately 25 grams, per day.
However, current statistics for 2023 indicate that daily consumption of free sugars often exceeds these recommendations worldwide. The United States stands out as the leader, with an average intake of over 126 grams of sugar per day per person. Europeans also consume a significant amount, averaging around 100 grams per day.
The main sources of sugar in the diet are sweetened beverages, desserts, and snacks. For example, a 330ml can of Coca-Cola contains 35 grams of sugar according to the manufacturer’s data.
The impact on health
Researchers have discovered significant detrimental links between the consumption of sugar in food and a range of health consequences. These include 18 endocrine/metabolic outcomes, 10 cardiovascular outcomes, 7 oncological outcomes, and 10 other outcomes such as neurological/psychiatric, dental, hepatic, skeletal, and allergic ones.
For instance, every 250 ml/day increase in sweetened beverage consumption is associated with a 17% higher risk of ischemic heart disease and a 4% higher risk of all-cause mortality. Moreover, each 25 g/day increase in fructose intake is linked to a 22% increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
Furthermore, excessive sugar intake has been correlated with weight gain and ectopic fat accumulation, among other health issues.
The analysis has also revealed connections between sugar and other dietary and lifestyle factors that contribute to health problems.
Conclusions from the Study
Scientists from around the world have made recommendations on limiting sugar consumption. They have noted that action needs to be taken to address the significant health risks associated with it.
To mitigate the detrimental impact of sugar on health, the scientists advise reducing the intake of free or added sugar to below 25 grams per day. They recommend limiting the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to less than one serving per week (about 200-355 mL per week).
Recent research by Italian scientists revealed that excessive intake of carbohydrates and sugar is an additional risk factor for infertility. Whole grains as a substitute for refined and sweetened products resulted in a higher frequency of pregnancies and live births.