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How Does Sugar Affect Health

Updated on August 14, 2016
Austinstar profile image

Lela earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from Sam Houston University in Huntsville, TX. She has been writing for the online world for years.

Blood Sugar Testing

How to test your blood sugar level
How to test your blood sugar level | Source

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.


  • 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

© 2012 Lela

Comments - Is low sugar the way to go for your health?

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    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Excellent research and information here Lela! I am thrilled to add this hub to my hub about PCOS. Really great work!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Hi Mo! I used to smoke and I weaned myself off of the nicotine, but I'll be danged if I can wean myself off of sugar and sweet treats.

      Sugar is very insidious. It creeps into your brain and says "Eat Me"!

      Perhaps we can come to some sort of stale mate?

      Yea, and next month's hub contest is all about recipes! Let's get cooking some sugar free food...

    • profile image

      Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

      Damn, girl, you are one smart cookie. I think this article was so well done, and very timely for me, as I'm trying, once again, to regulate my diet to bring my blood sugars back under control. My understanding is that once your body's blood sugar is under control, you won't crave the sweet, sweet, sweet anymore. That's kinda what I'm hoping for.

      Up and all that. :)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Processed sugar may be the one reason that Americans are getting fatter. It's all because of the way sugar affects health.

      I almost hate to say that our government did a good thing with the law about food labels. But still, we do need to use them!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Take a bow, Lela, for an outstanding, easy-to-read article on the dangers of too much sugar in the diet. Your illustration and analysis of a sample food label is priceless. Voted up, m'dear.

    • Global-Chica profile image

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      I've wondered how sugar affects health and you've answered the question very well with this well researched, informative, and useful hub. Voted up!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Hi Christopher - Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries). Antioxidants fight all those nasty free radicals that are bad for us. Cacao nibs are even better for you and they act like nuts in your body with healthy fats. As usual, the less a food is processed, the better it is for you. So dark chocolate is quite a bit better for you than chocolate with sugar, cream, milk or butter added.

      Thank you, Tillsontitan, it really is a simple formula - food turns to sugar which stimulates insulin production which stimulates fat storage. So all we really have to do is eat less and exercise more.

      Now if I could make that super easy to do I would be so rich!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Bob, I think you're eating too much sugar!

      Austinstar as always this hub is just crammed with information. You haven't left anything out that needs to be addressed where sugar is concerned. I have a diabetic father-in-law who just had his leg amputated and I am trying with all my might to get his family to feed him right. I'm going to have to print this hub and give it to them!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Your timing is impeccable here, as I have just been diagnosed with type two diabetes. I will keep coming back to this hub as at the moment I do not have a clue what I am doing diet wise.

      Why is dark chocolate ok? I thought all chocolate was bad.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Thanks, Scribenet. I really need to follow my own advice too. I'm going to re-read my copy of the Complete Idiot's Guide to the Glycemic index.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great I have seen this information presented ever! I like your snack list as well! Now I will bookmark it!

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Are you having a 'senior' moment, Bob? I get those now and then. That's why I have a hammock. Sugar free and breezy!

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Amazing hub.

      Ever since I stopped eating sugar, my left nut has stopped aching and don't report me to hub pages 'cause I love you but I am very confused today


    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Hi Sue! I did add the vegetarian choice. As a Texan, I never remember that there are vegetarians in the world. LOL.

      BTW, all corn has been genetically modified, starting with the Mayans and Aztecs. They began genetic experiments on corn plants way back in the earliest days of farming.

      When you think about it, plants were the first food substances to be genetically enhanced and manipulated.

      It doesn't really matter what you eat, it's how your body processes the food. You could survive on a measured amount of glucose pills every day, but how dull is that?

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 5 years ago from Andalusia

      I always wondered why sugar is bad for you so I did a lot of research on it, but you have added to my knowledge and I thank you for that. The three reason why I stopped eating white sugar is a) because it comes from genetically modified sugar cane, b)because it is processed to take all the goodness out of the plant, and 3)because it is extremely addictive. I use a little honey when I feel a craving for sweetness and find most biscuits and cake too sweet for my taste now.

      btw, ever since I stopped eating sugar, my left kidney which used to hurt after every meal has now stopped hurting. Any explanation for that?

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 5 years ago from Jamaica

      Very Interesting. Good quality content

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Unfortunately, as we age the body needs less and less glucose for energy. It's a tough balance, but studies show that if you can lower your blood glucose, you can lose weight.

    • Brightonbreezy profile image

      Brightonbreezy 5 years ago from Brighton, UK

      As a student, all the pasta and snacks were worked off with the clubbing and walk home, so I would feel less bad. Now the weight is slowly creeping on.