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The Effects of Sugar on the Human Body


Sugar can be found in pretty much everything we eat and drink, from coffee to snacks, all the way to our favourite desserts. It's safe to say it has become a staple in everything we eat. But what are the actual effects of sugar on our bodies? In this article, we will talk in-depth about the different types of sugar, their effects on our bodies and how to turn into a Sherlock and find them hidden in foods you eat on a daily basis. Let's get started.

The Origin of Sugar

Sugar has been around for centuries. It was initially discovered in India and then spread to the Middle East and Europe during the 15th Century. From there, it was taken to the New World with Christopher Columbus in 1492. Back then, it was highly expensive and only available to royalty and the wealthy. By the 19th century, sugar had become much more accessible and began appearing in a variety of items--from drinks to snacks. [1]

Overview of Sugar Consumption

Consumed in the right amounts, sugar in itself is not harmful, but eating too much of it can have some serious consequences for our health. The challenge is it is ADDICTIVE so its hard to stop eating and eating large amounts of it is a very common problem. Its also in far too may food staples (does it need to be in bread?) Consuming sugar in large amounts can lead to insulin resistance, increase the risk of heart disease, and even raise blood pressure. Also, excessive sugar intake can cause tooth decay and destabilize your blood sugar levels. Later in this article, we’ll dive deeper into these different effects on our bodies in much more detail later in the article.

How sugar is used in our diets

We are all aware that there is sugar in most of our favourite snacks. What most of us don't know, though, is that sugar is also used in other ways like food preservation. It increases the acidity level of certain foods and helps them stay fresh for a long period of time. This is the reason why fruit juices, jams, jellies, ketchup and mustard are able to remain shelf-stable for months or even years without going off.

Types of Sugars

When we talk about sugar, most of our minds go to the white granulated crystals which we add to our tea or use when we’re baking. But sugar comes in many different forms.

Brown sugar is sugar which hasn't been refined fully. When sugar beets are processed into sugar, the byproduct of this process is a thick, dark and viscous syrup called Molasses. During this refining process, instead of refining the sugar fully, the sugar is partially refined leaving the molasses in there and giving it a darker colour and distinctive flavour.

Cane sugar on the other hand is created when the juice from sugarcake is boiled and crystalised. This type of sugar contains trace amounts of molasses and minerals making it very slightly healthier than refined, pure white sugar.

Coconut palm sugar is made from the nectar extracted from coconuts, giving it a rich caramel-like flavour.

The different names for sugar

Try and track how much sugar you’re actually consuming per day and you’ll see it’s not a very easy task to undertake. Why’s that? Sugar has a bunch of different names which are used interchangeably on food labels. We’ve listed a few of them below. 

Sucrose, High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Glucose, Fructose, Dextrose, Maltose, Lactose, Galactose, Invert sugar, Molasses, Cane sugar, Beet sugar, Raw sugar, Brown sugar, Confectioner's sugar, Powdered sugar, Turbinado sugar, Muscovado sugar, Demerara sugar, Agave nectar, Honey, Maple syrup, Rice syrup, Barley malt syrup, Corn syrup solids, Caramel, Carob syrup, Coconut sugar, Date sugar, Grape sugar, Maltodextrin, Panela sugar, Sorghum syrup, Treacle, Evaporated cane juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Glucose syrup, Golden syrup, Refiner's syrup, Yellow sugar, Blackstrap molasses, Muscovado sugar, rapadura sugar.

the multiple names for sugar

Natural Sugars in Foods

Natural sugar is sugar which comes from natural sources. They are a great option for adding sweetness without calories and artificial ingredients. Fruits like apples, bananas, oranges and grapefruits are naturally sweet and make a great addition to any meal. If you’re following the keto lifestyle, apples, bananas and oranges aren’t the best option out there as they have high carb contents and will also knock you out of ketosis. If you’re looking for keto-friendly fruits, try berries as they typically contain the lowest amount of carbs. On the other hand, vegetates such as carrots contain small amounts of natural sugar that can enhance flavour. 

How sugar is broken down in the body

So when you consume sugar, how does the body react to it? 

Sugar is a main energy source for the body. When it’s consumed, it is first digested by enzymes in the small intestine which break it down into glucose and fructose. Glucose enters the bloodstream and travels to different cells throughout the body where it’s used for energy. The liver also plays a part by storing some of the glucose as glycogen for future use.

If there’s too much glucose in the blood, insulin is released from the pancreas to help move the glucose into cells that can use it for energy. Insulin resistance happens if this process isn’t as efficient as it should be due to excess sugar consumption. Insulin resistance can lead to health issues such as type 2 diabetes and other health challenges like cardiovascular disease - people with insulin resistance are more likely to develop high cholesterol issues and high blood pressure, women with insulin resistance are more likely to develop PCOS a condition that can cause infertility, irregular periods among others.

Now, let’s dive into the negative effects of sugar on the body starting with Insulin Resistance.

Effects of Sugar on Your Health

Insulin Resistance

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels.

Insulin resistance is a condition where the body becomes resistant to insulin. When insulin resistance occurs, the body isn't able to properly process glucose leading to high blood sugar. Eating too much sugar increases the risk of insulin resistance due to frequent spikes in blood sugar levels. Eating processed foods, being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle as well as genetics all increase the likelihood of this condition.

Insulin resistance can be managed through lifestyle changes such as eating a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Effects on your Heart and Blood Pressure

Too much sugar consumption can cause plaque build-up in your arteries. When we eat foods, our body breaks down the excess calories and stores them as triglycerides to use as energy. These triglycerides are made up of fatty acids. These fatty acids could sometimes get stuck in the arteries leading to plaque, leading to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease. It's also been linked to an increased risk for stroke, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.


Plaque is made up of fatty substances, cholesterol, waste products, etc. It builds up on the artery walls causing it to become thick and stiff[2]. Plaque reduces blood flow and leads to a bunch of health challenges.

Effects of Sugar on Your Brain

Eating too much sugar can cause inflammation in the brain which can impair cognitive function and memory. Eating too much sugar can also lead to fatigue and difficulty concentrating. When you eat something sugary, your blood sugar levels temporarily spike; when they drop back down again, the fatigue sets in. Also known as a crash.

It's important to note that excess sugar consumption has been linked to poor sleep quality [3]. Consuming too many sugary foods before bedtime can interfere with your body's natural sleep cycle, making it harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

Effects of Sugar on Your Mood

Sugar affects your mood. Eating a high-sugar diet can cause shifts in your hormones leading to changes in your energy levels and mood. Studies have shown that people who consume high amounts of sugar are more likely to feel anxious and irritable than those who eat less [4].

Effects of Sugar on Your Joints

Excess sugar consumption can lead to inflammation in your body, which in turn leads to joint pain and stiffness. Excessive sugar consumption also increases the risk of developing conditions like arthritis and gout, both of which can cause severe joint pain.

Effects of Sugar on Your Skin

Consuming too much sugar can cause inflammation, which can lead to breakouts and severe acne. High-sugar diets have also been linked to premature ageing, as the sugar molecules bind to proteins in our body and cause wrinkles. Eating excess sugar can also dehydrate the skin, making it prone to dryness, flakiness, and irritation.

Effects of Sugar on Your Liver

Sugar has a direct effect on the health of your liver. Eating too much sugar can lead to fatty liver disease, which is the accumulation of fat in the liver cells due to excessive consumption of sugary foods and drinks. This condition can cause serious damage to your liver over time, leading to cirrhosis, scarring, and even permanent damage. Additionally, it can put you at greater risk for type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and other health problems.

Effects of Sugar on Your Pancreas

Eating too much sugar can wreak havoc on your pancreas, a vital organ responsible for producing the hormones insulin and glucagon which help regulate blood sugar levels. Excessive intake of sugar causes the pancreas to work harder, leading to inflammation and eventually insulin resistance. This can put you at risk for type-2 diabetes as well as other health issues such as high cholesterol and heart disease.

Effects of Sugar on Your Sexual Health

When it comes to sexual health, when you eat sugary snacks and drinks, your body releases insulin which triggers the release of testosterone. This can lead to an imbalance in hormones, resulting in a decreased libido and difficulty achieving an erection. Excessive sugar intake can also increase blood pressure, which can affect blood flow to the genitals. Poor circulation can make it difficult to get aroused or achieve orgasm.

Effects of Sugar on Your Kidneys

When you consume too much sugar, it causes the body to produce more insulin, which can damage the cells in your kidneys, leading to an increased risk of kidney disease and failure. In addition, high sugar consumption increases inflammation, which can also lead to kidney problems over time.

Effects of Sugar on Your Body Weight

Worldwide, since 1975, obesity has nearly tripled worldwide and in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults (18 years and older) were overweight. [5]

In 2016, in England, 40%. Of men and 30% of women were overweight and 26% of adults were classified as obese. A 15% rise since 1993. [6]

Obesity occurs when energy intake from food or drink consumption is greater than the energy expenditure through metabolism or exercise.

Body mass is usually measured through the Body Mass Index (BMI). A person is thought to be obese when their BMI exceeds 30kg/m².

An increase in energy (calories) without burning them is what generally causes obesity. Excessive unhealthy food and sugary soft drinks are major sources of calories with hardly any nutritional value.

Excessive sugar leads to insulin resistance which happens when the body becomes less sensitive to insulin, a hormone that regulates sugar levels and helps the body use sugar for energy. When this happens, the body has a harder time using sugar for energy and this can result in weight gain.

Sugary foods can also trigger cravings for more sugar and other high-calorie foods which leads to overeating and weight gain.

Sugar can also disrupt the body's metabolism leading to a change in the way the body processes and stores fat. Leading to weight gain.

Effects of Sugar on Your Teeth

The bacteria in our mouths feed on sugary food and create acid as a by-product. The acid they create eats away at the enamel (the hard white covering on your teeth). Consuming a lot of sugar gives these bacteria a lot to feed on which essentially means, they create a lot of acids which eat away at your enamel much faster. A lot of sugar can also cause plaque which builds up on the teeth. A lot of plaque can cause gum inflation which can lead to gum disease which, if left untreated, can tooth loss.

Blood Sugar Levels

There are a lot of adverse effects of excessive sugar consumption on blood sugar levels. Some of them are

Increased insulin secretion: we touched on insulin earlier. Increased secretion leads to the body becoming less sensitive to it. This is one of the major causes of diabetes.

Insulin resistance: over time, the increased insulin secretion leads to the body being exposed to high levels of insulin. Causing a reduction in sensitivity leads to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

 Hypoglycemia: After spikes in blood sugar levels, the body may release too much insulin causing the blood sugar levels to drop too low. This may cause dizziness, fatigue and hunger.

As you can see, excess sugar consumption has multiple adverse effects on our bodies.  That’s why here at No Guilt Bakes, we specialise in zero sugar-added snacks. Check out the full collection here - Full Collection.

Illnesses Related to Excessive Sugar Consumption

Type 2 Diabetes: This is a condition that happens when the body doesn't regulate its use of sugar (glucose) properly. This condition leads to too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream. This happens because the body doesn't produce enough insulin to move sugar into the cells also, the cells don't behave properly and take in less sugar. [7]

Type 3 Diabetes: This condition occurs when neurons in the brain become unable to respond to insulin. This is responsible for tasks such as memory and learning. This form of diabetes has been linked with Alzheimer's which is a form of dementia and is a progressive disease which causes mind memory loss and then worsens as time goes by. Recently, Chris Hemsworth revealed that he may be at a higher-than-average risk of developing dementia. [8][9]

Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic Syndrome is a group of conditions that raise your risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious health problems. Some of the symptoms may be a large waistline, high blood pressure, high sugar levels and high blood triglycerides. [10]

Understanding Carbs and their relation with sugar.

Macronutrients: They are essential nutrients which are needed by the body in high amounts to support growth, provide energy and maintain health. 

Carbohydrates are macronutrients along with protein and fats. When we eat carbohydrates, our bodies break them down into glucose (a type of sugar which our bodies use for energy). Refined carbohydrates are broken down into glucose really quickly and are quickly pushed into the bloodstream. This cycle can also result in insulin resistance.


Grams of Sugar Per Day: Recommended Intake vs. Actual Consumption

According to the WHO, it's recommended that adults and children limit their sugar intake to 10% of their total daily energy intake. Further benefits will come from reducing intake to below 5% of total energy intake which would be around 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for adults. [11]

The average person consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day which adds up to about 68 grams. This is a leading contributor to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

recommended sugar intake vs actual

Sweetened Beverages and Processed Foods

Sweetened beverages and processed foods containing high amounts of added sugar are major contributors to excessive sugar consumption. They are high in calories and low in nutrients.


Sweetened beverages such as soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit juice are significant sources of added sugar. One single can of soda can contain 10 teaspoons of sugar. Processed foods, such as candy, baked goods, breakfast cereals, and snack bars, often contain high levels of added sugar as well. Many of these products are marketed as "healthy" or "low-fat," but they are often high in calories and low in nutrients.

The hidden sources of Sugar

Fruit Juices Are Not Necessarily Healthy

Fruit juice is known to most of us as a healthy source of vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, when we buy fruit juices, we have to read the label to make sure there are no added sugars in them. A lot of commercial fruit juices aren't made from fruits but from fruit concentrate meaning they have less nutritional value and added sugars.

 It doesn't end there. 100% Natural fruit juices can also be very high in natural sugars which can still raise blood sugar levels and contribute to weight gain if over-consumed.

Fruits contain fibre which slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and helps you feel full. Fruit juices can be quickly absorbed meaning, you don’t get the same feeling of satiety.

How to read nutritional labels and identify added sugar & how to measure

Before buying anything off the shelf, it's a good idea to read the label. But these labels can sometimes be confusing and we may be consuming more sugar than we realise. So, let's walk through how to do that:

  • Check the ingredients list: added sugar could be listed under a bunch of different names -- like the ones we listed earlier. Any of these names listed at the top may be an indication of how much sugar is in the product.
  • Look at the "total sugars" line: Total sugars include both natural and added sugars. To see the breakdown, the rest of the label should explain that. The WHO recommends limiting sugar intake to no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake.
  • Check the serving size: The amount of sugar listed is based on a particular serving size. If you eat more or less, you'll have to adjust the amount of sugar accordingly.
  • Pay attention to other ingredients: Products labelled as "healthy" or "low fat" may contain added sugars to compensate for flavour. Pay attention to that.

How to Reduce the Amount of Sugar You Eat or Drink

To reduce the amount of sugar you eat or drink, pay attention to the nutrition label of everything you take.

  • It may make sense to make your own fruit juices or snacks at home so you can control how much sugar you put in those.
  • Pay attention to carbs (as we talked about earlier, they get converted by the body into sugar).
  • Replace sugary drinks with water or unsweetened tea.
  • Choose whole foods over processed foods–fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • When buying packaged food, look out for "no added sugar on the label." Look out for all the names of added sugar.
  • When you need a snack, either find one with no added sugar (like the products from No Guilt Bakes) or use seeds and fresh fruits as your snack.


In this article, we talked about sugar, its sources and the multiple adverse effects it can have on our bodies. We also talked about how to minimise our intake and actually track it. Reducing sugar intake is an ongoing battle for most of us. At No Guilt Bakes, all our products taste delicious and have absolutely no added sugar making a great substitute if you're struggling to cut down on your sugar intake. Take a lot at our products here. We hope this has been helpful.



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