We all know too much sugary foods in our diet can lead to Diabetes, but did you know that sugar is linked to a lot of other diseases as well? In this post I rounded up lots of articles that do a good job of explaining the role of sugar in various disease processes.
In my own journey toward giving up sugar for good, I have found that the more information I have on sugar, the easier it is to walk past the dessert table without a shred of temptation… or regret! So feel free to bookmark this as a reminder for the next time you need some encouragement to say no to that cake your coworker brought in or the hot doughnut sign on the way to pick up the kids. Because even though it tastes good, is it really worth putting in your body if it can cause all of these things?
Perhaps the most well known disease you feed with sugar is cancer. But many oncologists will tell cancer patients it doesn’t matter what they eat as long as they get some nutrition into their body. But this just isn’t true! All foods are not created equal and while some foods will help sustain our bodies and nourish us, others will act like a poison. Here’s a great article that explains the connection between sugar and cancer in more detail.
I know more and more people personally that have been diagnosed with this, and some at very young ages. It is purely a lifestyle disease but it has serious implications on your health. Saying no to sugar is one of the best things you can do to prevent or reverse fatty liver. This article explains why the name of this disease is misleading and outlines some basic lifestyle changes you can make to address it.
We have mostly been told that eating too much salt or too much red meat and not enough vegetables and fruit leads to heart disease. Those might be contributors but they certainly are not the whole story. Processed foods with added sugar definitely plays a large role in this disease process as well. This article outlines current recommendations and looks at what the sources of added sugar that you need to consider reducing.
Memory Problems including Dementia
With the number of people suffering from memory problems on the rise, sugar cannot be overlooked. Did you know that some researchers are suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease be relabeled as Diabetes 3?! That’s serious business! For a better understanding on how sugar contributes to memory loss, check out this article this article by Dr Mache Seibel.
When I was researching for this article, I was not expecting to have gout listed as a disease that can be fed by sugar. All of the information provided by medical doctors suggests that this comes from too much red meat, right? Well, not exclusively.
While I will be the first to admitted the research here is a bit less compelling than some of the other disease processes, if you are suffering from gout you definitely need to investigate this for yourself. I’ve had lots of patients with gout over the years and all of them were consuming too much sugar, so at least in my experience I have noticed a connection. Here’s a great article that covers the basic reasoning behind this connection.
This link between sugar and kidney disease is so obscure I had a hard time finding a great article about it. But, there was plenty of research that was shockingly in support of the connection. I will say that I do not necessarily agree with the dietary recommendations in this article, but the information on the connection between kidney disease and sugar is the best I could find.
There’s also this one from the National Kidney Foundation.
To be clear, what I don’t appreciate about these articles is that it seems like you only need to be concerned about your sugar intake and the impact on your kidneys if you have diabetes, but insulin resistance (also sometimes referred to as pre-diabetes) is becoming more prevalent. The National Institutes of Health estimates that in the U.S. there are 84.1 million U.S. adults ages 18 or older had pre-diabetes in 2015. The truth is if there is a diabetic connection to a disease process, there is likely a link between significant sugar intake and the disease process. Just because you still have a functioning pancreas does not necessarily prevent these other diseases from occurring within your body, it just might take more time to see the effects.
This is another one of those areas where the association between Diabetes and Stroke is very strongly established. But no one is yet talking about the risk of someone without a diagnosis of diabetes increasing their risk of stroke by consuming too much sugar… As the number of insulin resistant people increases, I would anticipate that this places many people in danger unknowingly because we just aren’t talking about it.
Thyroid problems are on the rise. It’s hard for me to go a day at work without seeing someone who has at least symptoms of impaired thyroid functioning, if not an actual diagnosis of thyroid related problems. If you want a breakdown of the technical knowledge, check out this detailed post.
If you prefer a story of someone who has seen first hand the connection between sugar and thyroid functioning, check out this one.
Arthritis and Bone Loss
An osteopathic MD wrote this article on sugar’s contribution to the arthritis process
Personally, this is one disease process I believe I have changed within myself by quitting sugar. I remember at age 22 having pre-arthritic pain- that dull, achy, deep-in-the-joint kind of pain that pops up for no reason and just lingers for a while. I remember thinking “I’m too young to get arthritis, this is crazy!”
Several years later as I dropped sugar from my diet, I realized that the dull, achy pain was gone and I couldn’t remember having it recently. I might still experience arthritis in my joints again at some point, but I hope that with good nutrition and lifestyle choices to delay it as long as possible.
For those of you who may already have arthritis, perhaps even with joint limitations, I will say that dropping sugar from your diet can decrease the level of inflammation in your body. You might not get complete recovery, but you can expect some relief of your symptoms and a better ability to prevent further damage to your joints. Quitting sugar alone isn’t necessarily going to cure you, but it could make your pain manageable, prevent the need for surgery (at least for now), and keep you doing what you want to do longer than you could otherwise.
Current research has found support that sugar intake can contribute to mental illness including depression, anxiety, addiction, memory problems and even schizophrenia.
I know some of you might be thinking “but aren’t those all chemical imbalance issues?” Umm, yes. But there is a wealth of relatively new research that suggests that most of your brain neurotransmitters are created in your gut. So it’s actually not much of a stretch to think that what you eat can greatly influence the chemical balance in your brain.
This disease of course is not created by nutritional deficits but typically brought on by environmental factors. However, in much of the research available one of the commonly recommended means of managing the disease process is to reduce sugar intake to manage the overall inflammation level. So if you have this disease you can cause increased difficulties managing it’s symptoms if you continue to consume sugar.
Often we assume that when we have a condition that affects a certain area that the cause must also be limited to that area. With eczema, then it can be easy to assume that the cause is primarily limited to the immediate environment in and around your skin. But your skin is a reflection in many cases of what is going on inside your body, and reducing sugar can improve your skin reducing sugar can improve your skin.
If you have ever had fibroids, this is one to be aware of because research suggests that sugar and refined carbs can increase not just your chances of developing fibroids, but also the pain you experience as a result. Ouch!
This disease is on the rise in the US. Currently the CDC estimates 300,000 people are infected every year and the number of cases reported since 1982 has increased 25x! These shocking statistics are worth paying attention to since most people who are diagnosed don’t actually remember being bitten and can go undiagnosed for years with up to 40% chance of relapse if the treatment is delayed. To manage your symptoms or prevent relapse, understanding how lime disease thrives on sugar is essential to adjusting your lifestyle for optimal functioning.
Macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision deficits
Surely nutrition has hardly any impact on your vision, right? Well, not exactly. Several researchers have linked sugar to a cause or at the least a contributing factor for macular degeneration. In May of 2014, a group of researchers from India went so far as to propose that glaucoma and all of it’s subtypes are actually a form of diabetes of the brain.
More research definitely needs to be done of course to explore this revolutionary theory, but in the meantime your vision health might be a good reason to try giving up sugar.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is caused by interaction with a bacteria, so obviously is not caused directly by sugar. However, MRSA does feed on sugar so if you are infected or at risk for MRSA infections, it’s imperative to reduce or eliminate sugar in your diet. I would suggest that even if you don’t have MRSA, but are in a field of work where you are constantly exposed to sick people who might be carriers of MRSA (like a hospital or working with children of varying states of immunity), this could help stop any MRSA exposure from becoming an infection in your body.
Cold & Flu
Are you always getting a cold or flu at certain times of the year? Your sugary diet may be to blame! Here is a convincing article about the strong relationship between sugar and cold/flu season.
Personally, I have found that overall since quitting sugar I get colds/flus much less frequently and when I do experience them they are not as severe and do not last nearly as long as before when I was crawling to the Dr’s office begging for relief knowing they couldn’t really do anything for me.
Increased blood sugar levels can increase your mortality rate during a hospitalization if you have pneumonia according to this study.
There’s more research that needs to be done on this subject but this support alone indicates that regulation of blood sugar for people who are at risk for pneumonia and its complication is important including infants and elderly people.
If you struggle with swelling ankles, you might think it’s only related to your heart condition or just because you were standing too long. Or perhaps you just attribute it to old age. While all of those can contribute to swollen ankles, your diet (including sugar) can contribute to your swollen ankles.
And I will point out that while swelling alone is not likely the most inconvenient problem to have, it should be taken seriously as a sign of possible further problems.
Nerve pain is a common complication of patients with diabetes, so of course sugar has a role to play in it’s disease process. But this article explains very well the connection between sugar intake and increased neuropathy symptoms in people who have high blood sugar in their systems, regardless of their bodies are capable of producing enough insulin to regulate the incoming sugar rush.
Many women experience vaginal yeast infections at least once during their lifetime. But some women experience them recurrently, as often as once every menstrual cycle.
In addition to yeast infections in the vagina, you can have an overgrowth of yeast on the skin and even internally as a candida overgrowth.
Despite the varying presentations of yeast infection, all forms of yeast feed on sugar which keeps the infection active although some medications will temporarily relieve their symptoms. While sugar is not the only cause underlying this infection process, it is an area that needs to be addressed regardless of the underlying cause.
Sugar is a Poison
After reading through all of these diseases, it’s easy to conclude that sugar is a very delicious poison that we have allowed into our regular diet. If you read that arsenic was in your food, you wouldn’t eat it… but most of us consume sugar without thinking. The research is clear on this- our bodies do not function well with a high amount of sugar in our foods.
So, what next?
In my health journey I have found that information gives me the power to make an informed choice. I did not choose to write this to scare you or to overwhelm you or frustrate you, but to provide you with that simple opportunity to choose. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree, disagree, think this is crazy that one thing could be linked to so many diseases, or just want to share the struggle to give up sugar? (If you’re not sure you can do it, check out my story of finally going sugar-free for good. It was a struggle for me too, but more than worth it!)