Sugar can be a frustrating problem to tackle when you are trying to live healthy. Sugary food intake is directly connected to weight gain, yet it is nearly impossible to totally avoid in daily life. The human body requires an amount of sugar to function.

So, what can you do? The answers lie in this very article! There are a few different kinds of sugar, and it is important to understand each type and its influence on the body if your goal is to diet with intention and comprehension.

As mentioned, sugar is important for our body to function, but moderation is important if you want to lose weight. Sugar contains molecules of glucose and fructose, and both can attribute to weight gain.

Here are five ways that misuse of sugar will add to your waistline:

1. Excess Glucose Means Excess Fat

Sugar in bag on color wooden background

Glucose is a simple sugar that can be utilized by every part of your body for energy, and it is an integral part of your metabolism. Glucose comes from carbohydrates, which originate from sugary foods, and also from breads, pastas, and grains. Your body can even make glucose if it needs it. 

That being said, if too much glucose is consumed and your body does not exercise enough to burn it off, your liver converts the glucose into fatty acids. Your bloodstream then transports the fatty acids to various parts of your body, where it becomes adipose tissue. Your body does this because it has nothing else to do with the excess glucose, so it stores it away in the form of fat cells. 

Since glucose is integral to proper body function, moderation is key. Regulating food intake can help eliminate the risk of stacking up fat cells where you’d like to keep them off!

Key Point: Eating sugary foods and high food intake leads to an excess of glucose sugar in your system. Your body stores away the sugar that you do not burn off as fat cells.

2. Fructose Causes Insulin Resistance

Insulin with white sugar

The other component of sugar is fructose, which can be found naturally in healthy foods like fruit. Fructose in fruit does not pose a worrisome problem regarding weight control because fruit is high in fiber, which makes you feel full and less likely to overindulge.

However, manufactured fructose like high fructose corn syrup found in processed food is a nightmare for your body. This kind of fructose is never produced by the body and can wreak havoc on your system. Too much fructose of either kind in your system, and you run the risk of becoming diabetic and overweight – all because of the adverse effect it has on insulin.

Insulin is an important hormone that controls metabolism and energy consumption in the body. It is made in the pancreas, and then uses the bloodstream to distribute throughout the body. Insulin directs cells to transport glucose, therefore bringing energy to the parts of the body that require it. This is an important process for human beings, because when too much glucose is introduced to the body, insulin works to re-distribute glucose where it can be put to use. If this wasn’t so, glucose levels would rise to the point of toxicity in the bloodstream. This is how your body is supposed to work, so that you may indulge now and then.

The problem is when you choose to eat sugary foods packed with fructose. High levels of fructose in your bloodstream impede the system that insulin controls. Fructose blocks glucose pathways and obstructs glucose metabolism. Insulin gushes through your body to battle the damage fructose causes, attempting to direct the traffic jam of glucose in your bloodstream to where it needs to go, but over time the cells that normally respond become insulin resistant.

This can lead to type two diabetes, and causes your body to store glucose away rather than distributing and using it. Again, this leads to fat cells and weight gain.

Key Point: Overconsumption of fructose jams up the distribution of glucose in your body, which causes an overproduction of insulin and insulin resistance. This leads to weight gain and more troubling issues like diabetes.

3. Resistance to Leptin 

background of a set of fruits and berries

In addition to insulin resistance, fructose also causes resistance to leptin, a hormone discharged by fat cells.  Your brain (particularly the hypothalamus) receives leptin as a way of measuring the amount of fat at its disposal. Fat cell emit leptin according to their size. The more fat cells there are present, the more leptin is emitted, and your brain makes the decision that your body is not hungry. Leptin also directs your metabolism in this way. If your brain determines that enough energy has been stored, your metabolism relaxes and no fat is burned. This is the body’s guard against starvation as well as its way of preventing us from overeating.

However, when high levels of fructose sugar are introduced to your system, your brain eventually turns off to leptin. It becomes resistant to the constant flow of leptin and cannot detect it, so your brain decides that you must be hungry – all the time. In fact, it decides that you must be starving. It also mutes your metabolism, so that no fat is burned up… meaning you eat and eat, and store up fat cells, and you always feel hungry.

This state also makes you feel lethargic and lazy, which makes it doubly hard to get up and burn off the food your brain has been urging you to throw down. It’s a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break from, but it can be done with a diet full of proteins and fiber.

Key Point : Too much fructose means your brain cannot detect leptin, so it causes you to feel hungry and turns off your metabolism, causing overeating and therefore, fat gain.

4. Sugar Is Not Filling

a hungry girl opens the fridge

In combination with the issue of leptin resistance, fructose is simply not satisfying. Researchers from Yale University conducted a study comparing two groups of people who received sweetened beverages. One group had a drink sweetened with glucose, and the other group had a beverage sweetened with fructose.

The researchers monitored the activity in the hypothalamus of the brain, which regulates hunger. Glucose reduced blood flow in the hypothalamus, while fructose did nothing to reduce activity. In short, the group who received the fructose drink weren’t satisfied at all. Compared to the glucose group, the fructose drinkers were still hungry.

Soda is a good example here. Drinking a soda may feel good, but that carbonated beverage is full of sugar and contains absolutely zero nutrients. Your brain never registers that you are consuming. Sodas are full of salt and often full of caffeine, both of which make you feel thirsty.

Drinking soda also creates the urge to go to the bathroom, which will also make you feel like you need to drink more. This a wickedly clever sales strategy for soda companies to ensure you keep on buying sugary cokes, but the devastation these drinks cause on your waistline aren’t worth the brief pleasure… or the money in your pocket.

Key Point: Lots of fructose in your diet will ruin your brain’s ability to decide when you are full. If you don’t feel full, you’ll continue eating, and eating…

5. You Can Become Addicted to Sugar

Little colorful candy syringe over yellow background, health metaphor

As though it isn’t problematic enough that sugar turns off your ability to feel full and burn fat, it’s also addictive! In fact, sugar can have similar effects on your body to drug abuse. Your brain releases dopamine when you eat sugary foods, which makes you feel good and happy.

Drugs like marijuana and cocaine do this as well. Therefore, if you regularly consume sugary treats, you are (intentionally or not) conditioning yourself: “If I eat this candy, it’ll make me feel good,or “I deserve this soda after the stressful day I’ve had.”

This is a setup for individuals with addictive personalities and tendencies to fall into a sticky trap, and is also why some people eat when they are stressed out or sad, or even bored. You can become dependent on sugar for that extra boost, and as explained in the other four reasons… it’ll make you fat.

Researchers have concluded that some people are also genetically dispositioned toward sugar addiction in a 2011 study. Individuals who experienced genetic changes in the hormone ghrelin (which is a hunger signal to the brain) were more prone to abuse alcohol and… consume more sugar. Ghrelin actually activates the reward link in the brain and increases the incentive for individuals to consume sugar.

Key Point: Sugar causes the brain to release dopamine, creating a positive connection in your mind between sugar and feeling good… meaning if you want to feel good (and we all want to feel good!) you’ll feel the craving for something sweet.

Final Thought

Excess sugar will definitely cause you weight gain, which is why it’s key to regulate food intake—to pay attention to what you’re eating—and monitor how much sugar is deposited into your body.

Overconsumption of glucose directly leads to fat cells, too much fructose causes resistance to leptin and insulin, sugar fails to make you feel full, sugar makes you feel lazy, and perhaps worst of all it can become addicting—this is a fast-acting recipe for obesity! While sugar is not by any means inherently evil, human beings are dispositioned to consume it, and overconsumption is a sickly sweet trap to be stuck in.

If your goal is to lose weight and lead an active lifestyle, cutting or managing the sugar in your diet may be in your best interest. Be informed and be healthy!

What are your favorite ways to limit sugar intake but still enjoy the sweet things in your life? We’d love to see what you have to share in the comments below.

5 Ways that Sugar Makes You Fat
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