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Side Effects of Giving Up Sugar, According to Science

Ditch sugar-packed foods and reap these life-changing benefits.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

The days of hating on fat are long gone. Now, there's more evidence to support the fact that eating too much added sugar is what's doing some major harm to your health—especially since we eat a lot of it.

The average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar a day, which is the equivalent of 270 calories, according to the USDA. This excessive intake of added sugars can lead to health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, according to the CDC.

While consuming sugar from natural sources, such as those found in fruit and dairy milk, is acceptable in moderation, the American Heart Association recommends limiting women's sugar intake to 25 grams a day while men should consume less than 36 grams daily.

There are numerous ways to cut back on sugar, but have you ever wondered what happens when you stop eating sugar?

The health benefits of cutting out sugar from your diet—or even just cutting back on it—can be life-changing. Discover the science-backed benefits of lowering your added sugar intake and what will happen to your body in the process. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss Simple Ways to Start Losing Weight Immediately, According to Science.


You'll lose belly fat

measuring belly

Added sugar is synonymous with added calories—and extra weight, according to a BMJ meta-analysis. And once you swap out processed, sugary meals with high-fiber foods, you'll instantly notice a slimmer waistline. That's because when your body is deprived of added sugars, it'll start burning belly fat instead of carbohydrates—blessing you with the toned tummy you've been dreaming of. Start by steering clear of these sugariest restaurant dishes.

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You'll cut cravings

woman choosing healthy apple instead of junk dessert as a food swap to cut calories

Foods filled with simple carbs and refined sugars such as doughnuts, cookies, and white bread can cause dopamine spikes, resulting in incessant sugar cravings. A review published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews states that "Sugar intake may lead to an increased number of and/or affinity for opioid receptors, which in turn leads to further ingestion of sugar and may contribute to obesity." Weaning yourself off the sweet stuff can help you curb cravings and stop that destructive snacking habit in its tracks.


You'll feel more energetic

friends walking

If your morning diet is dependent on bagels and pancakes, and you find yourself reaching for one too many cups of joe, it's definitely time to rethink your eating habits. Cutting out these culprits laced with added sugar and replacing them with slow-digesting protein- and healthy fat-rich snacks—such as these best foods for energy—can help balance your energy levels throughout the day.


You'll lower your risk of Type II Diabetes


Research referenced in the Zero Sugar Diet states that for every 5 percent of total calories you eat from added sugars, your risk of diabetes hikes up by a whopping 18 percent. So if you gobble up around 1,800 calories a day, your maximum amount of daily added sugar intake should be around 24 grams. Guzzle down an 8-ounce serving of Coke, and you'll rack up two more grams than you should!


Your heart health will improve

Happy Woman Holding Heart Shaped Hands Near Eyes. Closeup Of Smiling Girl With Healthy Skin Showing Love Sign

Since consuming too much sugar can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), the American Heart Association recommends reducing added sugars in order to decrease your risk of dying from heart disease. "According to the study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine, those who got 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar," the AHA states.


You'll decrease your risk of tooth decay

woman looking at her teeth in the mirror

Satisfying your sweet tooth too often can actually wreak havoc on your chompers. A study in BMC Public Health found that sugar—whether it's lurking in food or drinks—is the major cause of cavities and tooth decay in both children and adults. Cut the sweet carb out and you'll get to keep your pearly whites.


You'll become more focused

working from home

According to Harvard Medical School, a diet high in refined sugars can impair brain function as well as exacerbate symptoms of depression. So while a pint of Ben and Jerry's certainly won't fuel your brain and contribute razor-sharp focus, these best foods for your brain definitely will.


You'll experience less bloating


Usually, we associate salty foods with bloating because sodium retains water and causes your belly to bulge. But once you take control of your sugar cravings, you'll also kiss the bloat goodbye. If you have trouble digesting sugars such as fructose (a natural sugar found in fruit as well as processed foods) and lactose (which is spotted in dairy products), your belly will respond unfavorably.


Your skin will improve

woman with good skin

Trying to fix that flawed complexion and finally stop suffering from breakouts? "Removing sugar is one of the most effective strategies to reduce aging as a non-inflamed state allows the collagen to stay strong and pliable," Ariane Hundt, a clinical nutritionist, tells us. In addition to that, "Sugar makes the collagen structure of the skin rigid."


You'll sleep better

Happy man waking up from sleep in bed

You may want to rethink dunking chocolate chip cookies into milk after lunch. According to the National Sleep Foundation, consuming sugar during the day usually equates to restless sleep at night. "Even if you don't fully wake up, the sugar in your system can pull you out of a deep sleep, making you feel exhausted the next day. On top of that, consuming too much sugar during the day can lead to an energy crash."


You'll strengthen your muscles more effeciently

arms up squat

Scientists have found a link between refined sugar and age-related muscle loss due to sugar inhibiting the body's ability to synthesize protein into muscle. In fact, that's just one of the scary side effects of mixing protein and sugar.


You'll decrease your risk of obesity

scale with weights measuring tape and bowl of healthy foods

As one of the leading preventable causes of death in America, obesity affects about a third of our population. A simple way to slash your risk? Just cut out added sugars—such as those found in soda, refined grains, and sweetened cereals—and you'll prevent calories from accumulating on your waistline as well as a slew of obesity-related metabolic diseases.


You'll decrease your risk of cancer, as well

older mature happy couple at table eating drinking

A groundbreaking nine-year study published in the journal Nature Communications found that, in a phenomenon known as the Warburg effect, cancer cells that rapidly break down sugars can stimulate tumor growth. Reduce your risk now by noshing on these foods that lower cancer risk.

April Benshosan
April is a born-and-raised Brooklynite who has a passion for all things health, wellness, and tastebud-related. Read more about April