The Bittersweet Truth About How Sugar Hurts Your Health

August 12, 2022

Addicted to sugar?

You aren’t alone. North Americans crave it. Whether in the form of candy bars, pop, cookies, cereals and syrups or hidden in processed foods such as pasta sauces and salad dressings, many of us are tempted by the sweet allure of sugar.

Not all sugar is bad. In fact, your body needs it to survive—the brain uses more energy than any other organ and glucose is its main source of fuel.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams (or 150 calories) of sugar per day for men and 25 grams (or 100 calories) for women, but American adults are actually consuming 77 grams of the white stuff every day, more than three times the recommended amount for women. This adds up to about 60 added pounds of sugar a year.

All that sugar is having a devastating toll on our health. Here’s the downside of too much sweet stuff:

It affects your memory & mental capacity

Studies show that elevated glucose in the bloodstream can lead to blood vessel damage, which contributes to a progressive decline in cognitive function and deficits in memory and attention. For example, a study by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine linked sugary drinks to pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease.

It can make you obese

A spoonful of sugar….usually makes you want more. Scientists have found that sugar has drug-like effects in the reward center of the brain. An addiction to sugar drives over-consuming and subsequent weight gain. And, just as with any addictive substance, greater amounts are needed over time to reach the same level of reward. More than two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight, which can lead to disease and early death. Sugar is often the culprit.

It makes you sad

We all know the feeling of a sugar rush, inevitably followed by a blood sugar crash. This can lead to low mood and high anxiety. Since the brain runs primarily on glucose, symptoms of poor glycemic regulation can closely mirror mental health symptoms. One of the largest studies to link sugar with depression found those with the highest level of sugar consumption were 23% more likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder than those with the lowest sugar intakes.

It puts you at risk of heart disease

The effects of too much sugar can lead to higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease, all of which are linked to increased risk for heart attack and stroke. A 15-year study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who got 17% to 21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8% of their calories as added sugar.

It can contribute to Type 2 diabetes

While genetics plays a role in developing Type 2 diabetes, lifestyle choices, including a healthy diet, are important factors in preventing this disease, which affects 10 percent of the American adult population. If not well managed, type 2 diabetes can lead to complications such as increased risk of heart disease, as well as nerve and kidney damage. Reducing added sugar can help prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications. You may be at risk of diabetes and not know it. Almost 85 million Americans have pre-diabetes and early detection is crucial to halt disease progression. Fountain Life’s Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) identifies spikes and drops in blood glucose levels and provides real-time biofeedback that can enable life-saving behavior changes. Based on the data collected, a Fountain Life medical professional works with clients to formulate an exercise, nutrition and medication regimen for diabetes prevention. If clients already have diabetes, Fountain Life can work with them to ensure good management of the condition.

Kicking the sugar habit


If you’re having trouble cutting back on sugar, don’t despair. Research shows sweets can be as addictive as cocaine.

Try these 4 tips:

1. Read food labels to monitor your intake of added sugar. Choose items that have 5g or less sugar per 100 g.

2. Reduce the sugar you add to your beverages, including coffee and tea.

3. Opt for fresh fruit when you have a craving for something sweet.

4. Cut back the sugar called for in recipes by one-third to one-half.

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