Sugar, the wonderfully sweet granulated bliss that makes your tongue happy isn’t so good for your body. Refined sugars have been blamed for everything from inflammation to belly bloat and weight gain.

Naturally occurring sugars, the sweet stuff found in fruits and vegetables, pose minimal harm, but an increasing body of research has pinned an ugly head on refined sugar, included in baked goods, candy, and ice cream. Health experts recommend reducing your intake or eliminating it all together.

Of course, we’re not entirely at fault for craving sugar like a drug; some research has found the sweet stuff leads to addiction.

Sugar releases dopamine and natural opioids in the brain, the same chemicals found in highly addictive painkillers. A 2008 study published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews found that under certain circumstances, rats can gain a dependence on sugar, although the scientific jury is still hung on the matter.

Humans’ sugar dependence has a biological purpose. In our hunting and gathering days, people knew that if a food they tasted was sweet, it was ripe and not poisonous. However, sugar has changed over the years. Today, people eat not only refined, granulated sugar, but also high-fructose corn syrup, a processed sugar that’s found in nearly all processed foods.

Sugary drinks, including soda, fruit juice–which, if you check most labels, doesn’t actually have much juice–and sports drinks, are a major contributor to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

An increasing body of research says sugar causes as much weight gain, if not more, as dietary fats. 

In 2011, New England Journal of Medicine published a 20-year review of nearly 121,000 men and women that analyzed their weight gain. Sugar-sweetened beverages ranked third among the five top causes of weight gain, behind potatoes and potato chips. Another study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that people who replaced sugary drinks with non-caloric beverages saw an average weight loss of anywhere from 2% to 2.5%.

Sugar has no nutritional value, and eating it makes your blood sugar spike. This can put you at increased risk of diabetes, as your body produces more insulin to process the sweet stuff. Elevated blood sugar can also lead to inflammation, which exacerbates chronic pain and can lead to a host of other health conditions.

Have you ever tried to reduce the sugar in your diet? 

Image by Vox Efx via Flickr

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