8 Subtle Signs You’re Eating Too Much Sugar

You likely already know a diet high in sugar can be disastrous for your health. But because many foods have an unexpectedly high sugar content, you might not always realize how much you’re consuming. So it’s important to recognize sugar’s effects on the body.

Here are eight subtle signs in your body that could mean you’re eating too much sugar.

1. Cravings

a woman holds a plate of doughnuts

Scientists disagree about whether to call sugar cravings an addiction. But we do know that eating sugar releases the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain. According to Psychology Today, “Research suggests that sugar can lead to changes in dopamine receptors, such that tolerance develops — more of the substance is needed to get an effect.” Craving the occasional cookie is fine. But if you find yourself hitting the vending machine for a candy bar at a certain time each day, you’re probably feeding too much sugar to your brain, causing it to want even more.

2. Acne and prematurely aging skin

Foods high in sugar quickly raise your blood sugar and insulin levels. This, in turn, increases “androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development,” according to Healthline.

And that’s not the only way sugar damages skin. It also can hasten signs of aging. A diet high in sugar produces compounds in the body that “damage collagen and elastin, which are proteins that help the skin stretch and keep its youthful appearance,” Healthline says. Consequently, wrinkles form and skin begins to sag before it would with a healthier diet.

3. Joint pain

Several studies have linked sugar to increased inflammation in the body, according to Healthline. And the effects can stick around for a while after you’ve consumed the sugar, so you might not immediately pinpoint it as the culprit. The inflammation can manifest in joint pain, swelling and stiffness. So if you’re experiencing any joint issues, it’s worth watching your sugar intake to see whether the pain improves.

4. High blood pressure

Doctor checking the blood pressure of a patient

A sugary diet is not at all sweet for your heart. According to the American Heart Association, sugar can cause high blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease. The association “recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 100 calories a day (6 teaspoons) for most women and no more than 150 calories a day (9 teaspoons) for most men.” So choose your sweets wisely.

5. Gut trouble

Both inside and outside, you’re covered with bacteria. And diet largely contributes to the balance between the good and bad bacteria, especially in your digestive tract. According to Mayo Clinic, sugary foods feed bad bacteria, causing them to overpower the beneficial kind. An imbalance might affect the function of your gastrointestinal tract, causing you to feel sick or even have trouble metabolizing nutrients, among other issues. So if you seem to have frequent stomach trouble, consider your sugar intake as a possible cause.

6. Depression

After that short-lived sugar buzz wears off, the lingering effects of a sugary diet can be detrimental to your mood. According to Healthline, a high sugar intake has been linked to a greater risk of depression. “Researchers believe that blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation may all be reasons for sugar’s detrimental impact on mental health,” it says.

Conversely, a healthy diet can actually improve your mood. So it’s extra important to reach for the right stuff to nourish your body, mind and soul.

7. Bad teeth

dentist and patient

When you were a kid, your dentist likely tried to impress upon you that sugary drinks and sweets cause cavities. And that’s a good reminder for some adults, too. “All forms of sugar promote tooth decay by allowing bacteria to multiply and grow,” according to Mayo Clinic. “The more often and longer you snack on foods and beverages with either natural sugar or added sugar, the more likely you are to develop cavities.” So if you want to avoid any painful dentist visits, limit your sugar intake.

8. Weight gain

It might seem obvious that a diet full of soda and cookies is probably going to make you gain weight. But sugar is not always so conspicuous. If you’ve packed on some pounds and can’t figure out why, look to your food labels. Many foods contain added sugars that you’d never suspect were there—causing you to unknowingly consume many empty calories. For instance, a serving of canned soup might get you dangerously close to your allotted sugar intake for the entire day. So it’s important to educate yourself on finding added sugars and keep track of what you eat in a day.

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Main image credit: Diana Taliun/Thinkstock

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