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You probably already know that you need to keep a close eye on the amount of sugar you add to your morning coffee and the number of cookies you sneak from the break room. And you’ve certainly heard that too much sugar is bad for your health. But you may not know exactly why sugar receives such a bad reputation. If you look at the facts, you’ll quickly deduce that too much sugar can add up to damaging effects on your body.

Excess Calorie Intake

One teaspoon of sugar contains about 16 calories. Although that calorie count might not be too frightening, those empty calories quickly add up. According to a 2012 article published by the Cleveland Clinic, the average American consumes more than 20 teaspoons of sugar every day, which amounts to more than 300 extra calories per day. The simple rule of body weight suggests that consuming more calories than you burn results in weight gain, while burning more calories than you consume equals weight loss. Consuming a few hundred extra calories per day through added sugars can eventually lead to significant weight gain. Carrying around excess weight puts you at risk for obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and unhealthy organs.

Increased Heart Disease Risk

According to MayoClinic.com, excess sugar consumption has been associated with decreased high density lipoproteins (HDL) and increased triglycerides. HDL is a healthy type of cholesterol that picks up and delivers unhealthy LDL cholesterol to your liver for removal from the body. Triglycerides are formed when you consume more calories than your body currently needs; it’s basically a type of fat used to store excess calories. The combination of low HDL with high triglycerides can lead to plaque accumulation along blood vessel walls, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and increased workload on the heart.

Aging Skin

After sugar is consumed, the glucose molecules float around in your bloodstream to be used for energy or stored for later. But as the sugar molecules circulate, they latch onto the vulnerable protein molecules in collagen and elastin. Eventually, the destruction of these protein molecules leads to weakened skin elasticity — which presents as loose, wrinkled skin.

Tooth Decay

If you’re not diligent about your dental health, consuming excess amounts of sugar can also lead to cavities and tooth decay. Bacteria feeds on sugar — so when your pearly whites are coated in the stuff, it provides a bountiful feast for bacteria to grow and flourish. If you can’t brush your teeth after consuming a sugary snack or beverage, at least rinse your mouth with water to help flush away some of the sugar molecules.

Recommendations

The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their intake of added sugar to less than 6 teaspoons per day, which adds up to about 100 calories. For men, the AHA recommends limiting added sugar intake to just 9 teaspoons, or 150 calories, per day. Check ingredient lists for more than just “sugar” — also watch for high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, corn sweetener, glucose, sucrose and maltose.

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