Before you submit to that sugar craving over and over again, consider these damaging health effects that may result.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

A fizzy drink here, a decadent chocolate muffin there. We often reach out for these sweet treats, but it’s not often we stop to consider the amount of sugar we’re consuming on a daily basis. Our bodies need sugar to function, but that should come from natural sources such as fruits and vegetables, rather than refined sugar that’s added to your soft drinks, pastries and desserts.

The more sugar you constantly consume, the more likely your muscles and liver will become full, which means body fat will start to burgeon. 

Fitness and nutrition expert Phil Snowden of virgin active, Singapore, tells us about the detrimental effects of sugar: “Sugar breaks down in the body (and turns into a) glucose molecule. The pancreas is an organ that releases the hormone insulin, which picks up the glucose molecules and transports them around the body — first to the muscles until they’re full and then to the liver — and then after both are full, they are stored as body fat.” So the more sugar you constantly consume, the more likely your muscles and liver will become full, which means body fat will start to burgeon. Many more issues will arise as a result, most of which are equally damaging. Here are some of them. 


This is an obvious outcome when the body starts to store too much sugar. Besides, sugar-sweetened beverages contain fructose, a simple sugar that increases your hunger and desire for sweet food, leading to a vicious circle of consuming even more sugar. An accumulation of body fat also increases your risk of heart disease.


There is a clear link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes. Prolonged high-sugar consumption drives resistance to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar levels. This can lead to a surge in blood sugar levels and increase one’s risk of diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes do still make insulin in their bodies, but their cells don’t use it as well as others without type 2 diabetes. This is a lifelong condition that has to be managed. 


Too much sugar over a long period of time wreaks havoc on the pancreas. It wears the pancreas thin, which means the organ doesn’t function at its full capacity and cannot produce enough insulin. This could then ultimately lead to the individual having to inject insulin — which we more commonly deem as type 2 diabetes. 


Lots of sugar in the body thickens the blood, which in turn affects blood flow around the body. A healthy body needs a constant flow of blood to reach all our vital parts. Sticky blood increases your blood pressure, and high blood pressure leads to many health complications, particularly as you get older.


Constant bombardment of glucose — where you’re putting too much sugar into your body — means the liver cannot cope. The liver can only store so much glucose in a healthy manner. Once the liver is overloaded, it leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition characterised by excessive fat buildup in the liver. As your liver helps your body digest food, store energy, and remove toxins, a malfunctioning or inflamed liver will result in many serious issues. 


There is some evidence that consuming large amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, such as esophageal cancer. Having a diet high in sugar increases inflammation in your body and may cause insulin resistance, both of which increase cancer risk.


Too much sugar takes minerals and calcium away from the bones, decreasing bone density. this means one’s bones are more likely to be prone to breakages. Older women who have undergone menopause are particularly at risk because the decrease in estrogen (a protective hormone for females) leads to weaker bones. 


Acne, rashes, and various skin disorders come from consuming too much sugar, because your body will excrete the excess sugar through the skin. Basically, sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development. Too much sugar also damages your pearly whites, eroding the tooth enamel that may lead to tooth decay, not to mention costly dental bills.


Elevated, followed by sudden decreases of blood sugar levels will have a direct impact on your energy and mood. You experience a high after eating sugar, then once the body has used the sugar, you would feel a corresponding energy crash. These swings can be detrimental to mental health, and lead to an increased risk of depression. People who are keen on getting back that sugar high will end up ingesting more and more sugar. 


The above are just a few complications that occur when you regularly consume too much sugar. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you can’t treat yourself every now and then, but remember to do so in moderation. As a general rule of thumb, keep your sweet indulgences to no more than twice a week. If you think you consume a lot of sugar on a daily basis, start making small changes now to lessen your intake. Whether it is dropping sugar from your coffee and tea, cutting down on sodas or buying fewer cakes or cookies during the week, your body is sure to thank you for it.