We have previously written an introduction about what sugar is and what routes it takes in our body. Now it is time to look into what sugar does to our body in the long run. When we speak about sugar in a bad way it is usually the “added” sugar part that we frown upon. Natural sugars in food is not the culprit in the equation and is not consumed in such a way to lead to obesity and heart disease.

Insulin Sensitivity

A diet high in added sugars makes blood sugar levels rise. The body thus produces insulin to start storing this sugar. A diet high in added sugars also increases the risk of adding fat between your inner organs (visceral fat). Over time, these factors, together with low levels of physical activity, all lead to insulin not working as well (called lowered insulin sensitivity), and your body even produces less insulin. Lower insulin sensitivity leads to higher blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar levels will make your arteries, liver and metabolism dysfunctional and leads to heart disease and more.

Results From a Giant US Survey

Yang et al. looked in to the eating patterns of US citizens linked to health through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a registry with data from around 1994 to 2010. They found a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for cardiovascular (CVD) mortality. That is: researchers have seen that if you get a lot of calories from added sugars, statistically, you have a higher risk of dying earlier than you should otherwise.

Both observational and experimental studies have reported that individuals who consume excessive amounts of added sugars (especially sugar sweetened drinks) are in an increased risk of gaining weight and to become obese, acquire type 2 diabetes mellitus, high blood fat/cholesterol, high blood pressure, all leading to heart disease or stroke.

So How Much Sugar Should You Eat?

The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 150 kcal and 100 kcal for men and woman, respectively, should come from added sugars daily.  That is about half what is consumed today in the US. 100kcal equals about 25 g of sugar. That’s approximately 250ml of a regular soda, or just under 6 sugar cubes.


  1. Johnson et al. Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation September 15, 2009.
  2. Yang et al. Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516-524

Article by team EBT member @jonasliefke, 3rd year Medical Student, BSc Physiotherapy. www.jonasliefke.com


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