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How Does Sugar Affect Health

Updated on September 11, 2019
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Lela is a Certified Medical Laboratory Scientist (ASCP) with 38 years of experience in the medical industry and blood banking.

How to Test Your Blood Sugar

Sugar and Your Health

Your body runs on sugar in the form of glucose in the blood stream. Your body also produces insulin to regulate the amount of glucose in your blood. These two substances are in a constant battle to balance your personal amount of energy and health.

Every bite of food or sip of a drink affects these two levels. When you eat too much sugar, the pancreas must work harder and faster to produce enough insulin to keep the blood sugar in balance. If you consistently eat too much sugar, the pancreas overproduces insulin and your body becomes insulin resistant.

If the pancreas does not work at all, you have Type One Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes) or brittle diabetes and you must constantly monitor your own blood sugar. If you have Type Two Diabetes (adult onset), your pancreas is damaged or your body has become resistant to the insulin.

Type Two Diabetics must also monitor their own blood sugar, but not as strenuously as Type One Diabetics. Type Two Diabetics also have a helpful blood test to monitor their average blood sugar over a period of three months time. This test is called the Hemoglobin A1C, or Glycosylated Hemoglobin or just A1C for short. Every diabetic should have an A1C test every three months to monitor their body's average blood sugar.

The key to blood sugar regulation - the pancreas

The yellow organ is the pancreas which controls insulin.
The yellow organ is the pancreas which controls insulin. | Source

Food and the regulation of blood sugar

Since all food turns to sugar in your body, it is important to know how a certain food will affect your blood sugar level.

The glycemic index of a food is one way of determining how high and how fast any particular food will affect your blood sugar level. You can even try this yourself with a glucometer or home glucose meter.

Fortunately, much research has gone into this area and we now know how a particular food can raise your blood sugar and by how much. This index is a good guide for diabetics to use to regulate their reactions to certain foods.

Of course exercise also plays a big role in the regulation of blood sugar. When a person exercises, their body uses the blood sugar for energy and will deplete the stores of sugar available.

The Glycemic Index of foods and how they affect blood sugar levels

The glycemic index is a measure of a food's ability to raise your blood sugar. Foods with a high glycemic index (50 to 100) digest rapidly and raise your blood sugar rapidly.

Foods with a low glycemic index (50 or below) digest slowly and do not raise the blood sugar as high or as rapidly as high G.I. foods.

The higher your blood sugar is, the more harmful sugar is to your health. When the body cannot produce enough insulin or if it produces too much insulin, your health will suffer.

Sugar and health - the dangers

Sugar in the form of glucose is the highest glycemic index food, rating 100 on the G.I. scale.. Granulated table sugar is measured at about 50 on the G.I. scale.

A high amount of glucose in your blood is considered dangerous to your health, but one must remember that all foods, even meat or zero G.I. foods eventually do turn into sugar in the body. Glucose is the primary way the body receives energy.

The danger of too much sugar in the body or of eating high G.I. foods is that the body does not have time to process and regulate that much sugar. The pancreas (insulin pump) must work very hard to control the blood sugar level.

One of the jobs of insulin is to enable the fat cells in the body to store energy that may be needed later. If your body is constantly pouring out insulin, this causes the fat cells to store more and more energy. This is how sugar makes us fat.

Facts:

  • Sugar feeds cancer cells, so cancer patients must cut way back on carbohydrates.
  • Sugar, glucose, sucrose, lactose, and other 'ose' is just another name for sugar.
  • Most carbonated drinks have high sugar content and a very high glycemic index.
  • Sugars (carbohydrates) are listed on the nutrition area of all products - read the labels!
  • Buy products that are low in sugar and low in carbohydrates to improve your health.
  • Sugar is not always bad for you, but too much sugar is.
  • Sugar and high glycemic foods aggravate Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Pay close attention to the sugars (carbohydrates) portion of the nutritional labels of food

The FDA Nutritional label guide.
The FDA Nutritional label guide. | Source

Best snack foods for a low sugar diet

  • lean meats - snacks include thin sliced natural roast turkey and chicken (use them for roll ups!)
  • low-fat cheeses - these fill you up and taste good - include a slice in your turkey roll up.
  • fresh cut vegetables - always good for you and the fiber will help cut down the sugar in your gut.
  • nuts - just a handful at a time - nuts have good for you fats
  • seeds - are good crunchiness to add to salads
  • whole fruits - preferably raw - some fruits are very high in sugar, so be careful with these
  • Almond milk - incredibly good for you - tastes great on whole grain cereals for breakfast
  • low-fat, Greek style yogurt - for best taste and nutrition
  • dark chocolate - Try organic cacao nibs

How a low carb diet affects your health

How much sugar is too much?

How much sugar do you eat every day?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Lela

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