Is Sugar Bad for You?

April 20, 2012 in Diabetes, Diabetes Management by Mary Ireland

I thought that I was aware of all the dangerous side effects of high blood sugar levels and diabetes, but while researching my blog post, What Are Blood Sugar Levels?, I learned about peripheral neuropathy -- damage to nerves -- that can be caused by diabetes and/or blood sugar levels that are high over a long period of time.

Diabetes is such an awful disease -- it can cause blindness, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and circulatory problems that may result in amputation of feet or legs. All of these are significant complications -- and peripheral neuropathy seems to me to be just as insidious. According to PubMed Health, symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:

  • Tingling or burning in the arms and legs.
  • Loss of feeling in the arms and legs.
  • Loss of muscle control and weakness

Nerve damage may also result in problems with body functioning. Peripheral neuropathy can interfere with digestion resulting in bloating, heartburn and/or trouble swallowing. Damage to the nerves to the heart can result in the heart not functioning properly as well as not feeling angina -- a warning sign of heart disease or heart attack. Weakness and loss of feeling can result in falls and injury.

Simply put, diabetes is something you want to avoid at all cost. After reading Dr. Grandma's blog post, Alarmed over All the Sugar Toxicity Chat?, I renewed my intent to reduce my sugar intake and make sure that I don't go over the American Heart Association's recommendations of 100 calories from added sugar per day (150 calories for men.)

While in this frame of mind, I found it interesting to come across the article Sugar ‘hidden’ in soft drinks. For those of us sensitive to the need to manage sugar consumption, it is no surprise. Now researchers at the University of Glasgow have actually conducted a study that confirms people significantly underestimated the amount of sugar in drink. One excellent example from the study is that participants estimated the amount of sugar in pomegranate juice to be just four teaspoonfuls of sugar. It actually has 22 teaspoons of sugar. Yes that is twenty-two.

The study found that in a week, the average person consumes 3,144 calories in beverages such as milkshakes, smoothies, energy drinks and juices -- the equivalent of eating for an extra day and half each week. If people switch from soda to these drinks, they may get marginally more nutrition for their calories (with the exception of the energy drinks) but they are still getting way too much sugar -- enough to add one pound per week.

Researchers noted that most people don’t include the sugar in the drinks in their daily calorie intake. That may be, as Dr. Grandma has pointed out numerous times and most lately in her blog post Drinking Trouble, because the calories in these drinks don't satisfy hunger.

Sugar is addictive. The Center for Disease Control's webpage, Rethink Your Drink offers shows you how you can significantly reduce your sugar consumption from drinks by substituting lower calorie options.

Dr. Grandma also has some great tips to control your sweet tooth. It may be a challenge, but the craving for something sweet does subside. My advice is to simplify. You are sure what is in your drink only when you put the ingredients in your glass yourself. Try starting with plain water. If you want a little flavor, squeeze a fresh lime wedge into your water. If you want a little sweetness, mix in a little sweetener of your choice. It may not seem all that tasty at first, but once your taste buds adjust, you may find it preferable to sugary beverages. Most important of all, your body will be so much better off.