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Yes, sweets taste great. They may even make you feel good. But more and more studies are showing the harmful effects of Americans drastic increase in consumption of sweets. Studies show that too much sugar (both in the form of natural sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup) not only makes us fat, it also wreaks havoc on our liver, slows down our metabolism, impairs brain function, and may leave us susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Recent studies show that sugar intake affects blood pressure and vascular disease. These, in turn, increase the risk of major cardiac events such as a heart attack. Studies by DiNicolantanio and Lucan show that "sugars, particularly those found in processed foods, are more significant than salt in promoting hypertension and cardiovascular disease."(1) Newest ideas on vascular disease point to sugars as the initial culprit that cause irritation in the blood vessel walls and that this damage is what may allow cholesterol to attach and form plaques.
Eating sugars activates the reward system in the brain similar to socializing with friends or being intimate or doing drugs. Your body releases the neurotransmitter, dopamine, when sugar is consumed. Dopamine is a "feel good" chemical, which causes people to actually feel happy after consuming sweets. But eating excessive amounts of sugar causes an increased amount of dopamine to be released which continues to be rewarding. Going into this overdrive creates an addictive affect, similar to the response after consuming alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs.
There are multiple forms of sugar to be aware of, such as glucose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, and starch. Sugar is obviously in sweet foods and sodas, but it is also in processed carbohydrates such as bread and pasta. Milk also breaks down to sugar. Corn syrup is added to most packaged foods found in the US. Some examples of sneaky sugary culprits include sauces, granola, protein bars, dairy products, cereal, and chips. Overall, the best way to avoid sugar is to avoid processed foods. Sticking to a diet of mostly vegetables with some healthy proteins and eating fruits instead of processed sweets is a healthier way to approach eating.