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Sugar is one of the most prevalent food items found in our refrigerators and pantry shelves. It comes in many different forms, ranging from the complex carbohydrates of whole grains to the simple carbohydrates found as white table sugar and in highly processed foods. Your body needs small amounts of sugar daily to function normally, but too much at once can cause you to experience adverse reactions associated with a sugar overdose.
When you experience a sugar high from a sugar overdose, you will feel like you are "buzzed" or amped up. Your hands may shake and your body may experience tremors. Sitting still during a sugar high may prove to be quite difficult.
When there is too much sugar in the blood, your pancreas will release insulin, which circulates through your body and tells the cells to remove sugar from the blood. Your pancreas goes into overdrive to resolve this imbalance. In the end you go from high-blood sugar to low-blood sugar quickly as the pancreas keeps signalling the insulin to take up the sugar far pass the balancing point. This leads to fatigue, weakness, irritability and hunger as you enter the low-blood sugar state. Ironically when you get hunger cravings it's usually for something sweet.
After the cells take the sugar from the cells, they need to do something with it. Normally small sugar amounts is used for fuel, but if there's an excessive amount it gets stored in fat cells for later use. So repeated sugar overdoses lead to extra fat storage.
Immune System Functioning
Excessive sugar in your body at any given time lowers the functioning of your immune system. Your white blood cells don't fight bacteria as effectively when simple sugars are consumed in large quantities. It is most notable 30 minutes to 5 hours after consumption. If you're binging on sweets while stressed, this will increase your likelihood of getting sick. The combination of stress and simple sugar will bring your immune functioning down drastically. The exception to this is if the sugar comes in the form of complex carbohydrates or starches. These forms don't have this effect on the immune system.
You should consume around 40 grams of sugar a day for normal functioning. This should be spread throughout the day. The recommended forms should be complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruit, low-fat milk, whole grains and legumes. Complex carbs take longer to break down and allow you to feel full longer. The simple sugars found in candy and soda should be avoided, as these usually don't have any nutritional value.
- "Biochemistry"; Mary Campbell, Ph.D. and Shawn Farrell, Ph.D.; 2005.
- Ask Dr. Sears: Sugar
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