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What are the benefits of giving up sugar?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017  |  Editor

What are the actual benefits of limiting the amount of sugar you eat?

Health bloggers and clean-eating advocates frequently extol the benefits of quitting sugar - but is it actually desirable?

Entirely eradicating all sugar from your diet would be extremely difficult. You can ditch fizzy drinks, cakes and stop adding sugar to your tea, but as long as you've still got bread, milk, fruit ready meals, condiments, and a thousand other innocuous-looking foods in your shopping basket, you'll still be consuming sugar.

What is certain is that most of us could do with significantly reducing our sugar intake. According to NHS figures, the average Briton gets through 700g - 140 teaspoons-worth - each week, more than three times the recommended amount.

The NHS recommends cutting down on foods and drinks that contain added sugars, and seeking out low-sugar alternatives: water or milk instead of fizzy pop, cream cheese instead of jam or marmalade, porridge instead of corn flakes, and so on.

You'll probably lose weight

Excessive sugar consumption can lead to weight gain. Ditching cakes, sweets and chocolates in favour of healthier fare, and you're likely to see the pounds fall away.

Professor Naveed Satta from the British Heart Foundation Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre at the University of Glasgow says: "Sugar per se is not harmful - we need it for the body's energy needs - but when consumed in excess it will contribute to weight gain."

Your heart will be healthier

Drinking just three cans of fizzy pop each day could triple your chance of developing heart disease, a 2014 study suggested.

Scientists in America found a strong association between the proportion of daily calories from foods laden with added sugars and death rates from cardiovascular disease. Cut out the sugar, and the risk of cardiovascular disease radically diminishes.

No more energy slumps

If you're partial to high-sugar snacks, you're likely to be familiar with the rapid drop-off in energy that follows afterwards.

Sugary treats send blood sugar levels soaring - until the inevitable crash that leaves you tired and craving more carbohydrates.

You'll be less at risk of cancer

Sugar does not directly cause cancer. However, Cancer Research UK highlights an indirect link between cancer risk and sugar: "Eating lots of sugar over time can cause you to gain weight, and robust scientific evidence shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer. In fact, obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking."

Less risk of tooth decay

Everyone knows sugar is bad for your teeth - and the longer sugary food is in contact with teeth, the more damage it can cause.

Conversely, less sugar means less risk of tooth decay.

Your thinking should get clearer

A 2012 UCLA study on rats showed that too much fructose – a simple sugar found in fruits, honey and vegetables – effectively slowed the brain by affecting insulin’s ability to help brain cells convert sugar into energy for thought.

Dr Sarah Brewer, a medical nutritionist, warned of the damage sweet things can do to your grey matter: “Brain cells need glucose to function but too much in a short time will cause a sugar rush and make you feel over-wired.”

Your immune system will be stronger

According to Web MD, eating or drinking too much sugar "curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks."