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How does sugar interact with your body?

You know that sugar is in almost everything you eat and that eating too much of it can cause serious health problems. But how much is too much, and how does it work?

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, and like all carbohydrates your body uses it as an energy source. After it travels through your digestive tract, sugar is absorbed into the blood stream at which point your pancreas produces insulin to convert the sugar to energy. Energy from sugar will either to be used immediately or stored as fat for later. Naturally occurring sugars take longer to reach your blood stream because their fiber content causes the entire piece of food longer to break down than foods with added sugar, which is why you feel the results of a sugar rush sooner after eating a piece of candy than an apple.

Where sugar occurs naturally in foods, such as in fruits and vegetables, your body reacts with an expected amount of insulin and energy conversion which keeps your body on the whole maintaining normal activity. When you consume foods with added sugar you’re ingesting more sugar than your body is expecting, which causes commotion. Insulin works hard to reduce your blood sugar as quickly as possible by making energy left, right, and centre. Sugar affects your mood, too. Your brain releases feel-good chemicals that tell you that the sugar makes you feel great along with that energy boost! Until your blood sugar is regulated and your system goes back to normal and suddenly you’re not feeling as good as you were after that delectable snack, making it easy to reach for another sweet treat and start the cycle again.

What are the dangers to a diet rich in added sugar? In addition to causing tooth decay, a diet high in sugar can lead to weight gain and increased cholesterol thanks to the unused energy stored as fat. Obesity and high cholesterol can be linked to the development of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. A diet high in sugar may also cause high blood pressure, certain types of cancers, can affect depression, and even cause wrinkles.

The World Health Organization recommends that the average intake of added sugar should be no more than 10% of your daily calories, which for an adult is approximately 12 teaspoons or 48g, but stresses the importance even less when possible. That means the recommended daily intake of added sugar for children is even less, and as you read food labels you will be aware of how quickly added sugars add up for your whole family. While science hasn’t been able to prove that children who indulge in sugary foods exhibit poor behaviour, children do experience the same highs and lows that and adults do which can wreak havoc on their performance at school and your family time. The best time to enjoy a sugary treat is after a meal to slow down the time it takes for the sugar to enter the blood stream and allow insulin to work at a regulated pace.

Wilson Health Services is here to help you navigate a healthy diet. Book an appointment with our naturopath to talk more about sugar. Call 519-624-8000 or visit