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Your body on sugar

The effects of sugar go far beyond your waistline. Even within 15 minutes of eating sugar your body begins to feel its effects. Here’s what takes place in your body after a sugar binge. *

0 - 15 minutes

The first part of the body to come under attack is the teeth and gums. In the mouth, sugar combines with bacteria to create acids that destroy tooth enamel.

15 - 30 minutes

Once the sugar has made it from the stomach into the small intestine, it is broken down and soaked up into the bloodstream. The pancreas then gets to work pumping out insulin to try and convert as much sugar into energy as possible. This energy is then distributed to the various muscular tissues around the body.

But with such a high influx of sugar in the body, not all of it can be converted to energy. The result? Any sugar left over is sent to the liver to be turned into fat and it is then stored – usually around the stomach area.

Whilst all this is going on, this huge flood of sugar and energy convinces the body that it is being put through a whole heap of stress, setting off an adrenal reaction. Stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine, get released into the system and cause the heart rate to increase, with a chance of some excess sweating.

30 - 45 minutes

Blood pressure levels are now elevated and the influx of sugar has caused the body’s dopamine levels to increase too, resulting in what’s known as a sugar high. But this sugar bliss is short-lived. The high hormone and insulin levels cause blood sugar levels to drop triggering the dreaded sugar crash. Cue feelings of lethargy, irritability and the sugar ‘hangover’ headache.

This drastic fall in blood sugar causes the body’s hormones to respond by attempting to get as much sugar out of the liver as they can in a bid to restore stability.

Alongside the above, sugar both expanding and quickly escaping from the digestive system causes trapped wind, resulting in stomach pains and perhaps some rogue flatulence.

45 - 60 minutes

Fluctuating hormone levels send your white blood cell function into a state of confusion, which results in the immune system being temporarily ill-equipped to protect against infection. It could take up to five hours for the immune system to regain its full strength, during which time you are more susceptible to infections.

Fortunately, if you’ve had a sugar blowout there may be some room for redemption. A recent study published in the journal Obesity, found that reducing sugar in diets, even without cutting calories or losing weight, has the power to dramatically improve health. In the study 43 children aged nine to 18 were put on a sugar-restricted diet. In less than nine days they experienced significant improvements to their metabolic health, including a drop in blood pressure and cholesterol and improved liver function.

*Adapted from

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