How Too Much Sugar Destroys Your Health

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Blog, General Wellness, Nutrition

Do you eat too much sugar? You are not alone. Most people do.


According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), the average American adult consumes about 17 tablespoons or about 200 grams of sugar each day (1). Though Canadians are doing better, they are still eating a lot more than they should. The average Canadian consumes about 110 grams of sugar, around 60 of those being added sugar (2, 3). 


It is a serious problem in European countries, Australia, Mexico, Guatemala, Barbados, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries (4, 5). Unfortunately, sugar-loaded processed food is all over the world. There is a reason that some countries like Finland are considering or imposing a sugar-related taxation (6). 


Dietary guidelines suggest that added sugar should be less than 10% per day (7). Considering the risks of added sugar, you should aim lower.

So, what are the risks of added sugar? Let’s talk about it.

The Problem With Too Much Sugar

Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, chronic inflammation, and all kinds of health issues. Let’s look at them one by one.

Weight Gain

This may be an obvious one. Most people who try to reduce their sugar intake do it to lose or maintain a healthy weight. Research has shown that added sugar is one major contributing factor to obesity. Sugar-sweetened drinks, such as fruit juices, sodas, and sweet teas, are a major culprit (8, 9). They are loaded with fructose. Too much fructose in your diet can lead to leptin resistance. Leptin is responsible for regulating hunger, and resistance to it may make it difficult for your body to understand cues of hunger and fullness and when you need to stop eating (10).


Eating too much added sugar may also increase your risk of insulin resistance, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes (11). According to a 2017 review published in Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, too much sugar is linked to weight gain, increased body fat, and obesity, which are risk factors for diabetes and metabolic disease (12). And again, beverages are among the leading risk factors for too much sugar and related diabetes. Research found that sugary drinks are linked to an increased risk of diabetes (13).

Heart Disease

Sugar is bad news for your heart health as well. It can increase your risk of heart disease, which is the number one cause of death (14, 15). A 2016 research published in Cardiovascular Progressive Disease has found that too much sugar may increase blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides, inflammation, and obesity, which may all increase your risk of heart disease (16). Other studies have shown that it may be linked to atherosclerosis, blood clots, heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke (17, 18).

Fatty Liver and Kidney Issues

Too much sugar may also increase your risk of fatty liver disease and kidney issues. Unlike other sugar, fructose is almost exclusively broken down by your liver. This means that too much fructose in your diet can exhaust your liver (19). This fructose then gets turned into energy or stored in the form of glycogen. Since your liver can’t store an infinite amount of glycogen, excess gets turned into fat. 

According to a 2018 review published in the Journal of Hepatology, this can lead to excessive fat buildup, called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (20). Other research suggests that added sugar may affect your other major detoxifying organs. It may increase blood sugar levels, narrow the blood vessels of your kidneys, and increase your risk of kidney disease (21).

Energy, Brain Function, and Mental Health

Too much sugar may disrupt your energy levels, brain function, and mental health. Though sugar may give you a quick boost of energy, this doesn’t last long. It leads to sugar crashes and fatigue. Consuming sugar on a regular basis can be an energy-draining cycle that can lead to blood sugar swings, fluctuation of energy levels, and fatigue (22, 23). 

A high-sugar diet may also increase brain fog and cognitive complaints. According to a 2021 research in The Journal of Prevention Of Alzheimer’s Disease, sugar may increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (24).

Moreover, sugar may also affect your mood. A 2019 review published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews suggests that sugar may increase stress, emotional issues, and addictive behaviors (25). Other research has linked sugar consumption to depression and other mental health issues (26, 27).


Too much sugar may also increase the risk of cancer. It can increase your risk of chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, obesity, and insulin resistance, which are all common underlying risk factors for cancer (28, 29, 30). A 2018 published in the Annual Review in Nutrition has found that a higher sugar intake may lead to increased cancer risk (31). 

Skin Issues

A sugar-filled diet may also contribute to skin complaints. Higher blood sugar levels linked to sugary foods may increase inflammation and oil production, increasing the risk of acne (32, 33). Sugar may also increase the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which can contribute to skin aging (34, 35). AGEs may negatively affect collagen and elastin, which can affect your skin firmness. It may increase wrinkles, sagging skin, and other signs of skin aging.

Dental Issues

Finally, a high-sugar diet can negatively affect your dental health. Sugar feeds bacteria in your mouth, which can lead to tooth demineralization and dental issues. It may increase the risk of cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss (36).

Sugar Ingredients, Added Sugar, and Sugar Substitutes to Avoid

Added sugar can show up in products in many different ways and under different names on labels. Though the labels may suggest how much sugar comes from added sugar, you should still be aware of sugars to avoid when shopping for food.

Names for added sugar on products may include:

  • Table sugar
  • Sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Confectioner’s powdered sugar
  • White granulated sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • All-fructose corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Anhydrous dextrose
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Sucrose
  • White 
  • Pancake syrup
  • Nectars
  • Molasses

Unfortunately, many sugar substitutes are not great either, as they can cause chronic inflammation, sensitivities, and all kinds of health issues.

Artificial Sugar Substitutes to Avoid:

  • Aspartame
  • Sucralose
  • Acesulfame 
  • Saccharin
  • Other sugar alcohols that end in –itol, such as erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol

How To Reduce Sugar + A Better Way to Get Sweetness in Your Life

Reducing or removing overly processed foods is the best and easiest way to reduce added sugars and your overall sugar intake. Following a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet full of whole foods can help balance your hormones, reduce your cravings, and reduce your need for sugar-filled snacks. Eat lots of greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, sprouts, fermented foods, fruits, nuts, seeds, pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry, wild-caught fish and seafood, and wild game. Focus on healthy fats and clean protein.

Your carbohydrate intake should come from sweet root vegetables, such as beets or carrots, sweet veggies, such as peppers or broccoli, and whole fruits. These whole foods provide lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber to support your health. Low-glycemic index fruits, such as berries, citrus, and apples, are better if you are watching your sugar and carb intake. Choose whole fruits instead of juice. The fiber in the whole fruit or veg will slow digestion and reduce blood sugar imbalances. 

If you need to use a sweetener, you may use honey. It’s loaded with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial ingredients. However, don’t overdo it, and ideally, combine it with a healthy meal or snack. Pure maple syrup also offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, used in moderation. Dates or bananas may be a good option when baking or making smoothies. Monk fruit is a good natural sweetener that doesn’t throw off your blood sugar. Stevia is also a great no-calorie option that doesn’t affect your blood sugar.

Some people have to watch their overall carb intake more than others. I recommend speaking with your doctor and coming up with a plan based on your personal needs. Moreover, if you are dealing with sugar cravings, emotional eating, or binging on comfort foods despite a healthy diet and your best efforts, you may benefit from working with a therapist to address underlying emotional issues. 

Next Steps

Do you need help reducing sugar in your life or addressing sugar-related symptoms? Looking at your nutrition is key to better wellness. If you want to know more about how nutrition and healthy dietary strategies may improve your health, follow my blog or schedule a consultation for personalized advice.

If you are dealing with any chronic health issues and need advice on how to improve your nutrition and health, I welcome you to start a functional medicine consultation with me for further personalized guidance. You may book your consultation here

Check out my Histamine Intolerance Course here. Learn on your own time, from anywhere. Get an inside look at the most helpful functional medicine tests for pinpointing imbalances, ways to identify and manage the most common (and sometimes surprising) mast cell triggers, and learn what to eat, what to avoid, and why.

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