The Dangers of Refined Sugar and How to Eliminate it From Your Diet

We all know that refined sugar is found virtually all food items you consume on the daily including soft drinks, bread, cereals, sauces, etc. but did you know that refined sugar is the single worst additive in the modern diet? Apart from being the most processed ingredient in the food industry, refined sugar is just as addictive as drugs. That's why it's so hard to quit sweet treats.

Unfortunately, refined sugar is also deadly. Consuming copious amounts of sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases cancer, and other chronic diseases. Even the sugars found in fruits can be unhealthy when consumed in excess.

Facts and Figures About the Dangers of Sugars

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, a renowned osteopathic physician, refined sugars has no less than 76 health dangers. On the other hand, WebMD noted that a diet rich in refined sugar doubles your chances of dying from heart disease. MayoClinic noted that sugar is the leading cause of chronic diseases and obesity in the world.

On top of that, a diet rich in sugar increases your risk of developing neurological disorders including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Here are more sobering facts about the dangers of refined sugars:

  • Death by sugar is a global phenomenon that kills millions of people each year. In fact, a Live Science report noted that a recorded 184,000 deaths were attributed from excessive consumption of sugary drinks in 2013 alone.
  • Added sugar makes about 10% of an average American's daily diet. An average American consumed about 180 pounds of sugar per year.
  • Diabetes kills more Americans each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. About 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes.
  • Diabetes has become an epidemic in the country. In 1893, there were less than 3 cases of diabetes for every 100,000 people. In 1988 to 2014, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes ballooned to 382% in the United States.
  • In 1893, the obesity rate in the US is under 4%. Today, 74% or 2 in 3 American men are considered overweight or obese.
  • In the UK, coronary heart disease or CHD was almost nonexistent at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, 2.3 million are afflicted with CHD and about 2 million are living with angina, the common symptom of CHD.

Eliminating refined sugar from your diet will do your body a world of good. If you are committed to eating cleanly then it would make sense to switch to the Paleo diet. The rule of Paleo diet is simple; every food item that's been processed should be avoided at all cost. That includes sugary foods because refined sugar is not a natural part of our ancestors' diet. Going on Paleo means consuming clean, organic, and unprocessed foods, food items that are 100% free from preservatives, additives, and refined ingredients.

The fact is, refined sugar has devastating effects on major organs, including the heart, brain, and arteries. By eliminating the root cause of chronic disease, you'll enjoy a leaner, healthier frame and a longer lifespan.

Facts About Sugar Intolerance

Just like any food, some people are sensitive to refined sugars and exposure causes unhealthy reactions. This condition is often caused by sugar malabsorption wherein the body is unable to process and/or absorb dietary fructose. An extreme case of sugar intolerance is called Hereditary Sugar Sensitivity or HFI.

Sugar sensitivity is surprisingly common. According to Food Intolerance Diagnostics, about 33% of adults are living with sugar malabsorption. However, not all people affected by this disorder realize that refined sugars are the root cause of their condition! That's because sugar malabsorption symptoms are similar to other conditions. Below are the most common signs and symptoms of sugar sensitivity or intolerance:

  • Mental distress such as anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD
  • ​Lack of focus and poor memory
  • ​Mental fog or confusion
  • ​Bloated stomach
  • ​Diarrhea
  • ​Irritable bowel syndrome
  • ​Osteoporosis
  • ​An unhealthy obsession with sugars and sweets
  • ​Brittle and dry nails and hair
  • Acne or bad/unhealthy skin

Refined Sugar vs. Natural Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Are all types of sugars dangerous to the health? Now that you've learned all the negative effects of refined sugar, you might be wondering if switching to natural sugar and artificial sweeteners is better for your health. Let's find out:

Refined Sugars VS Natural Sugars

Yes, there is such a thing as healthy sugars and it's found from natural sources such as fruits and honey. Refined sugars typically came from sucrose, a combination glucose and fructose. These sources offer zero nutritional value.

Natural sugars from fruits and honey come with a bevy of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. Compared to refined sugar, natural sugar is healthier because it's not processed. However, consuming too much natural sugar is bad for the health too.

Leaving your consumption of (natural) sugar unchecked will lead to the same sickness caused by processed sugars such as rapid weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases! Portion control is key.

Sticking to a Paleo lifestyle includes monitoring the amount of natural sugar you consume. Fruit intake is controlled so you're not depriving yourself but sugar portions are always sensible and healthy.

Refined Sugar VS Artificial Sweeteners

The negative effects of refined sugars forced the food industry to look for "healthier" alternatives. For decades, artificial sweeteners were considered as a safe replacement for refined sugars but further tests proved that artificial sweeteners are even more dangerous to the human health. Below is a list of the most common artificial sweeteners:


This sugar substitute is 600 times sweeter than table sugar and 3 times as sweet as aspartame but contains zero calories. Initially, scientists say sucralose pass by the gut undigested – thus causing zero effects on blood sugar level – but new studies show that this sweetener is also metabolized by the body. Studies show that sucralose may change the body's insulin response and even alter the genes. When used in baked goods, sucralose releases potentially toxic compounds called chloroproanols.


This sweetener is derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is a relative of the sunflower. Stevia is 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Although passed off as a natural sweeter, it's still processed sugar. Preliminary studies show that stevia has links to metabolic issues, cancer, and reproductive issues.

Agave Nectar

This sweetener is sweeter than honey but with a runny consistency. It is derived from a species of cactus that originated in Mexico and South Africa. Just like stevia, agave nectar is passed off as a "natural sweetener" but is heavily processed so it's not completely Paleo-friendly. If you're watching what you eat, it's best to avoid agave nectar all together.


This sweetener is a common ingredient in diet or zero calorie sodas. The ill effects of aspartame are well documented. It increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity and weight gain.

If you're on Paleo, choosing the right kind of sugar is easy because you only take 100% all-natural sweeteners. The core of Paleo diet is to consume organically produced foods, foods that are not processed in any way. Sweeteners are no exception.

Symptoms of Sugar Addiction

Sugar is addicting because it creates a mental and physiological response similar to the "high" that drug addicts experience after taking drugs. The addictive aspect of sugar consumption is the hardest to overcome if you're on Paleo but it does get easier as the day progresses. But how do you know if you're addicted to sugar and what can you do about it? Here is a list of the common symptoms of sugar addiction:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Hypertension
  • ​Frequent headaches
  • ​Recurrent hunger pangs (even after a heavy meal)
  • ​Stomach cramps
  • ​Low energy
  • ​Mood swings
  • ​Irritability
  • ​Muscle pain
  • ​Excessive sweating and chills
  • ​Diarrhea
  • Nausea

How to Eliminate Unhealthy Sugars on Your Diet

If you suffer from these symptoms, there's a good chance that you're sugar junkie. If such is the case, going on Paleo is the best decision you'll ever make. The good news is, there are many ways to eliminate refined sugars from your diet – along with other harmful ingredients found in processed foods – while still enjoying delicious meals. Below are practical ways to avoid unhealthy sugars:

Read the Labels

Make a habit out of reading the labels. If a certain ingredient ends in "–ose," it's just another name for processed sugar so avoid it like a plague. Avoid fat-free products because these items are typically teeming with sugars and preservatives.

Go for Whole Foods

The general rule of thumb is, the more processed a food item is, the more sugar it contains. Instead of choosing canned or packed food items, opt for whole foods. For instance, if you need peaches, go for fresh peaches instead of canned peaches when baking. The same thing goes for meats and other items, if you can buy it fresh, get it.

Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Most store-bought foods contain more sugar than necessary. If you're cooking or baking, try reducing the amount of sugar you use to 25% to 50%. If you must use sweeteners, go for raw honey. Instead of using table sugar, use fruit as natural sweetener.

Avoid Processed Treats

If you are craving for something sweet, opt for raw fruits and nuts instead of baked treats, greasy foods, or candies. If your fridge is chock-full of processed treats, now's the best time to clear out the junk and replace them with healthy snacks!

Avoid Sugary Drinks

Sodas, soft drinks, energy drinks, artisanal coffee, smoothies are just a few of the beverages you have to avoid if you're watching your sugar intake. Reduce your consumption of orange, apple, and grape juices because these drinks are high in sugar too.

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