7 Surprising Reasons to Give Up Sugar

It's making fat show up in really weird places, for starters.

By Leah Zerbe


It "Browns" Your Tissues
The Facts: In a way, we "rust" as we age. Oxidative stress turns our tissues "brown;" this is known as the Maillard reaction. Chronically overindulging in excess added sugar will speed up this browning process.

Where Sugar Lurks: It's in most processed foods. Of the estimated 600,000 commercial food products, about 80 percent contain added sugar, Dr. Lustig says. Sodas, fruit juices, and desserts account for only about half of those, so cooking from scratch can help you get a grip on your sugar intake.

It Makes Your Liver Fat
The Facts: When you overdose the mitochondria in your liver with sugar, the organ has no choice but to take the excess and turn it into liver fat. Some of this fat never makes it out of the liver, leading to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This forces the pancreas to make extra insulin so the damaged liver can do its job.

The organ fat buildup isn't necessarily obvious on the outside, either. A 2012 study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found people who ate 1,000 extra calories of sugary foods saw just a 2 percent increase in body weight, but a 27 percent increase in liver fat.

Where Sugar Lurks: Be sure to check sugar content in yogurt—some are loaded with sugar, with amounts comparable to a candy bar! Look for yogurt with sugar levels well under 10 grams per serving, such as Stonyfield's Greek.

It Makes You An Addict
The Facts: Dopamine is one your body's feel-good neurotransmitters. But eating too much fructose shuts down healthy signaling in the body, meaning it takes more and more sugar to fire off signals that bring pleasure.

Where Sugar Lurks: Beware packaged smoothies—some tout higher sugar levels than an ice cream sundae! To take control, make your own homemade smoothies.

It Annihilates Your Arteries
The Facts: Over time, that bad habit of eating too much added sugar will start seriously irritating your endothelium, the sheath of special cells coating the inside of your blood vessels. Glucose glops up on the fingerlike feelers of the cells, making them less sensitive, which could impact oxygen sent to your organs.

Where Sugar Lurks: Even meat products in the frozen food aisle could harbor hidden sugars. Leave the TV dinners at the store. Take the time to cook a large batch of whole foods over the weekend and enjoy them all week to help you evade unwanted sugars.