Excess sugar consumption is a common problem, especially since sugar addiction is a very real issue that many people struggle with.
Some people have a genetically higher likelihood of having a sweet tooth, but it’s more than that. Some people are in the habit of consuming sweet and sugary foods regularly, have an addiction to sugar, and generally consume way more sugar than they should. This is what often leads to obesity, heart problems, inflammation in the body, risk of developing mood disorders, and more.
The daily recommended sugar intake, according to the AHA (the American Heart Association) is about 25 grams of sugar per day for women, and up to 35 grams per day for men.
That’s about 6 - 9 teaspoons of sugar per day, or about 100 - 200 calories of sugar per day. This means that sugar shouldn’t be accounting for more than 10% of your daily calorie intake. Most people’s recommended daily calorie intake is 1,500 - 2,000 calories per day, so eating more than 25 grams of sugar per day would likely take you over that 10% threshold.
The average person consumes more sugar than this per day, especially if they have a sweet tooth. Excess sugar in your diet is one of the leading causes of obesity, since sugar turns into fat in your body.
Why is Excess Sugar Consumption Such a Common Problem?
Sugar is everywhere. It’s hidden in pasta sauces, it’s in your ‘healthy’ granola, and it’s an added ingredient to many common foods found at the grocery store.
Sugary foods such as cookies, chocolate, granola bars, cakes, muffins - they undeniably taste great, and it requires a lot of self-discipline to limit your sugar intake to the recommended 25 - 35 grams per day.
It should be noted that most healthcare professionals don’t count naturally occurring sugars in fruits and lactose, as those are not added sugars.
Still, only allowing yourself 25 - 35g of sugar per day is not easy when the aisles are filled with cereals, granola bars, muffins, cookies, sauces and condiments all with added sugar.
Not everyone has the self-control or willpower to stick with the daily recommended sugar intake, and many people seek help from dieticians for advice on how to break a sugar addiction or control sugar cravings.
What Causes Sugar Cravings?
Many different factors can cause intense sugar cravings that are hard to ignore, therefore leading to excess sugar consumption.
- Emotional or psychological distress such as depression, stress or anxiety (sugar provides your brain with temporarily increased serotonin levels, and the hunger hormone ghrelin often rises when you’re stressed.)
- Nutrient deficiencies (such as a magnesium deficiency.)
- Low blood sugar / blood sugar imbalances
- Food addiction or eating disorders
- Sugar addiction
- Hormonal imbalances (levels of the hormone ghrelin, which controls appetite, could be too high.)
- Thirst (you might just need to drink some water.)
- Compulsion or habit-forming behaviors that need to be broken
- Poor sleep
What Happens to Your Body When You Consume Too Much Sugar?
Excess sugar consumption is linked to a wide range of negative health outcomes.
Some of the negative consequences of excess sugar consumption on your body include increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, poor blood lipids, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, fatty liver, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and inflammation in the body.
Regularly consuming too much sugar in your diet can also lead to persistent brain fog, decreased energy or lethargy, trouble sleeping, tooth decay and skin problems.
The most commonly recognized long-term consequence of regularly eating too much sugar is obesity.
Obesity in itself can cause many other health problems, and impact quality of life and mobility.
In addition to these negative things that happen to your body when you regularly consume too much sugar, note that eating too much sugar can impact your mental health as well. It can lead to low self-esteem, guilt, shame, social anxiety, depression, and more.
Another thing that happens to your body when you consume too much sugar is the ‘sugar rush’ followed by the undesirable outcome of the ‘sugar crash’.
Excess Sugar Consumption and the ‘Sugar Crash’
Let’s go over some signs that your body is going through a sugar crash. Below is what can happen to your body when you have consumed too much sugar, and you’re now having a sugar crash:
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Headaches or other body pains
- Unexplained hunger despite recently eating a lot of calories
- Bloating and stomach discomfort
Tips for Breaking the Habit of Excess Sugar Consumption
There are many ways to outsmart your sugar cravings, break a sugar addiction, or change your eating habits to reduce your sugar intake.
You can always hire a professional dietician or nutritionist to help you.
However, below are some tips you could try on your own first, to see if you can break the bad habit of excess sugar consumption:
Keep a Food Diary: A food diary can help you because not only can you figure out when you seem to crave sweets the most and in what circumstances, but a food log will also help you figure out your triggers. For example, some people find that a very salty meal triggers sugar cravings afterwards.
Manage Your Stress Levels: Stress eating is a real thing. The hunger hormone ghrelin that controls appetite is impacted by the stress hormone cortisol, so when you’re stressed, you might want to eat. If you can master other ways to reduce stress such as going for a walk, calling a friend, doing some yoga, or spending time with a pet - you might outsmart your sugar cravings.
Consider Abstinence for 30 Days: Anyone can do just about anything for 30 days, right? If you commit to going cold-turkey and abstaining from sugary foods for 30 days, your taste buds might adapt to the change. You might realize your taste buds no longer crave sugar because you’ve broken the habit or addiction by abstaining for a period of time.
Practice Mindful Eating: Breaking a high-sugar eating pattern might require that you first develop a healthier relationship with food and eating. Practicing mindful eating can help improve your eating habits, and your relationship with food. Mindful eating is all about awareness and being present - paying attention while you eat. On the other hand, mindlessly eating sweet snacks in front of the television is the opposite of mindful eating. With mindful eating, you’ll recognize if you’re eating out of boredom, low mood, or actual hunger. Eating mindfully means eliminating distractions while you eat (such as the television) and focusing just on your food and each bite. You eat slowly, notice the taste and texture of the food, savor each bite and allow your body to tell you when you’re full.
Find out if, due to your genetic makeup, you have low appetite control, a stronger sweet tooth, or special dietary needs with the CircleDNA at-home DNA test.
- The AHA Recommended Daily Intake of Added Sugars: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/cut-out-added-sugars-infographic
- Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822166/
- The sweet danger of sugar, Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar