The Real Reason Sugar Is Bad for You

Carbs are evil. Fat is bad. Too much protein can kill you.

Sometimes it feels like professionals and self-proclaimed experts alike constantly tell you certain foods are bad for you, but don’t give clear information explaining why you shouldn’t eat them.

What’s the point of eating less sugar, for example, if no one has ever told you what it’s really doing to your body?

Some foods high in sugar are still worth the calories. But others are setting you up for a seemingly endless road of failed diets and chronic disease.

Here’s the real reason experts say sugar is so bad for your health — and why it’s so hard to stop satisfying your sweet tooth.

How much sugar should you be eating?


Sugar | Stocksnapper/iStock/Getty Images

Before we answer this question, let’s clarify that the sugar in an apple is different than the sugar in an Oreo. It’s very hard to get “too much” sugar from an apple because even though it’s low in calories, many of its carbs come from fiber, which is more filling. It’s easy to over-consume Oreo cookies because they’re high in sugar and aren’t nutritious.

If you’re trying to cut back on the amount of added sugar you eat daily — the kind you’d get from an Oreo — guidelines are pretty straightforward depending on how you want to measure it.

  • Grams — This is the measurement used in food labeling. You want to limit your added sugar intake to no more than 25 grams per day.
  • Teaspoons — This comes out to 6 (women) or 9 (men) teaspoons daily.

For reference, a Twix candy bar contains between 5 and 6 teaspoons. One can of Red Bull has 5.3 teaspoons. Eating 100 grams’ worth of Froot Loops would add almost 9 teaspoons of sugar to your daily total.

Are you eating way more sugar than you should? There’s a reason why.

Sugar behaves a lot like a drug

It’s not sugar itself that’s bad for you. It’s the amount of sugar you’re eating on a daily basis. Eating the occasional Oreo cookie probably won’t impact your health at all. Eating several packages of Oreos in a single week definitely will.

The reason we’ve seen such a sharp increase in rates of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes might be that most people are eating more than the recommended daily amount of added sugar.

Maybe it’s because companies like to try hiding it in food labels. Maybe too many of us are still confused about the difference between the sugar found in fresh fruit and the sugar added artificially to your Oreos.

It’s also possible that the majority of people consuming too much sugar simply don’t care that they can’t stop eating it. Sweets are chemically addicting. Over time, your brain learns to treat sugar as a reward that makes you feel good when you eat it. The more you consume, the more you crave. The cycle repeats.

Sugar isn’t a drug. But it causes a similar psychological side effect. And that can have deadly consequences.

Diseases you’re more likely to get if you eat too much sugar

Glazed donuts

Glazed donuts | styxclick/iStock/Getty Images

To be clear, eating sugar doesn’t “cause” disease. Chronic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes develop for a handful of reasons, and their risk factors are different for everyone. But a poor-quality diet high in added sugars can be a major contributor to your risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Metabolic syndrome.

No, you don’t have to cut sugar out of your diet completely┬áto stay healthy or lose weight. But if you can’t control yourself around these foods, you might benefit from doing so — at least for a little while.

It’s OK to treat your sugar habit like an addiction if that’s what helps you regain control. It’s also OK to ask a professional for help if your diet might be putting your health at risk — now or in the future.

Sugar is bad. But only if you indulge too much, too often. Here are a few suggestions to help you eat less sugar without quitting it for good.

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