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The Harmful Effects of Sugar on the Human Body Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 2nd, 2020


People consume sugar in many forms: they add it to their morning coffee, bake it into cookies, pastries, and cakes, and consume it in sodas, juices, smoothies, and candies. Many others sprinkle it over their breakfast cereal to make it more palatable. Sugar is a major component of the processed foods that people consume, such as meat, bread, ice cream, and condiments such as ketchup. In many families, sugary foods are viewed as tasty, sweet, and satisfying. They are consumed in large volumes because they are irresistible. However, the consumption of sugar in large quantities is toxic, deadly, and addicting. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the daily intake of calories from sugar should not exceed 25 grams for adults (Alexander 64). This number is larger than what many people ingest when they consume a single can of coke that contains 39 grams of sugar. Excessive consumption of sugar is harmful to the human body because it causes diseases, insatiable hunger, addiction, high blood pressure, and increases the risk of high blood pressure and insulin resistance (Alexander 83).


The consumption of sugar in limited amounts is recommended by dentists because it is the main cause of dental cavities. Research studies have created a connection between dental cavities and the consumption of sugar. They have shown that tooth decay occurs when residual bacteria found in the teeth breakdown simple sugars into acidic elements that destroy the enamel and dentine (Friedman par. 2). According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NICDR), the mouth is inhabited by both beneficial and harmful bacteria. Dental cavities are caused by the harmful bacteria that feed on the sugars that people consume to produce destructive acids. If untreated, cavities can lead to tooth loss. One of the downsides of consuming sugar is that it is rich in calories but lacks nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals (Friedman par. 2). In that regard, it provides easily digestible energy for the harmful bacteria that line the teeth.

Insulin resistance

High consumption of foods rich in sugar increases the body’s demand for insulin (Taube’s par. 16). Insulin is a hormone that converts food into energy that is needed by the body. High demand for insulin results in the high secretion of the hormone and the consequent reduction of the body’s sensitivity to insulin (O’Connor par. 9). The reduction of sensitivity to insulin results in the accumulation of glucose in the body. The main signs of insulin resistance include fatigue, high blood pressure, and hunger (Taubes par. 17). Studies have shown that insulin resistance increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and a condition known as acanthosis nigricans. Acanthosis nigricans has no known cure and is characterized by dark patches on the armpits and the back of the neck. Insulin resistance also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke because it destroys the blood vessels of victims without their realization (Taubes par. 18). Insulin resistance is a serious condition because it gradually progresses into diabetes.


Sugar is a major cause of diabetes. Studies have shown that there is a relationship between sugar and type 2 diabetes (Friedman par. 5). Sugar alone cannot cause diabetes. However, it increases the risk of developing the disease. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found out that high-sugar diets increase the risk of developing diabetes (Taubes par. 14). The study found out that including a single serving of a sweetened beverage in one’s diet increases the risk of diabetes by 15%. This is primarily due to the high levels of added and unhealthy sugars found in the beverage. On the other hand, the study revealed that carbohydrates and fats also provide calories that cause overweight and obesity, which are two factors that contribute to the development of diabetes. As mentioned earlier, insulin resistance is another cause of diabetes. The body’s resistance to insulin results in increased weight and obesity (Taubes par. 10).


According to the WHO, obesity is one of the major risks of consuming excess sugar (Lustig par. 9). Sugar leads to decreased satiety and makes people consume more. People who consume large amounts of sugar-rich foods are more likely to become obese than people who consume low-sugar foods (Alexander 78). In children, a single serving of sweetened beverages increases the risk of obesity by approximately 60%. Studies have shown the consumption of one can of soda for 365 consecutive days result in 15 pounds of weight gain (Alexander 93). Obesity is an epidemic because of the many deaths it causes every year. Obesity occurs from excessive consumption of sugar because the energy intake from food is greater than the energy expenditure through metabolism and physical activity (Taubes par. 19). Foods rich in sugars provide excessive calories that are not needed for the optimal functioning of the body (Alexander 60).

The excess calories lead to weight gain. Excess glucose is stored in the body in the form of fat (Lustig par. 11). The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommend a 5% daily sugar intake. This is equivalent to the consumption of 30 grams of sugar daily for adults. The WHO and SACN recommend a daily intake of 24 grams for children. Currently, the average daily intake of sugar among children is between 11.9 and 14.7%. The WHO has suggested that limiting the daily intake of sugar to the recommended 5% would mitigate the obesity pandemic and halt its increase (Alexander 85). It is important for adults and children to consume foods that have low sugar levels in order to reduce calorie intake.

In a recent discovery, physicians have revealed that fruit juice contains high levels of sugars and should not be included in the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables that should be consumed daily for healthy living (O’Connor par. 15). Sugar causes weight gain because it affects insulin and leptin signaling in the body (Alexander 254). Fructose interferes with the proper functioning of the body’s appetite control system by failing to stimulate the production of insulin. Low levels of insulin result in the body’s failure to suppress ghrelin, a hormone that suppresses hunger (Hozer et al.). In addition, it fails to stimulate the production of leptin that initiates satiation. As a result, people eat more than they require for their bodies.

Liver failure

The human body processes and utilizes glucose and fructose differently. The majority of cells in the body can breakdown glucose to produce energy. However, fructose is only broken down by liver cells. The accumulation of fructose in the body has severe consequences on the proper functioning of the liver, heart, and arteries (O’Connor par. 10). The liver converts fructose into fat through a process referred to as lopogenesis (Friedman par. 6). Too much fructose in the body leads to the accumulation of tin fat droplets in the liver that can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (O’Connor par. 10). The effect of the accumulation of fat in the liver is similar to the effect of too much alcohol consumption. Statistics show that the disease affects approximately 30% of adults in developed countries.

The disease is more common among diabetic and obese people. The disease is very dangerous because it is irreversible. At a certain stage of the disease’s development, the liver becomes inflamed and causes the low-grade damage referred to as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (O’Connor par. 11). In cases where the inflammation is severe, liver cirrhosis develops. Moreover, liver function degenerates. The breakdown of fructose in the liver also causes an increase in blood pressure, bad cholesterol, production of free radicals that can damage body cells, and triglycerides (Friedman par. 6). It also contributes to the body’s resistance to insulin and promotes the buildup of fat around body organs.

Pancreatic cancer

Several studies have found out that the consumption of high-sugar diets increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The studies have suggested that the development is due to the association of high-sugar diets with obesity and diabetes (Hozer et al.). Obesity and diabetes increase the likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer. A study published in the journal Cancer Research established a relationship between sugar and cancer. It showed that fructose increased the rate of growth of pancreatic cancer cells. The cells metabolize glucose and fructose differently but used the energy for cell division and growth. The study revealed that the cancer cells used fructose to produce energy for cell growth and division (Friedman par. 10). The findings of this study were invalidated by a study published in the International Journal of Cancer that rejected the suggestion that high-sugar diets contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer. Therefore, more research is needed to determine whether there is a relationship between sugar consumption and cancer.

High blood pressure

In the past, it was widely known that salt was the major cause of high blood pressure in humans. However, recent studies have confirmed that sugar is worse than salt in causing blood pressure. One of the causes of high blood pressure is associated with the production of high volumes of insulin and leptin due to the intake of high amounts of sugar (Taubes par. 21). An increase in the levels of insulin and leptin cause an increase in blood pressure. Studies have concluded that fructose many increase blood pressure and heart rate, and lead to insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction. The recommendation to reduce processed foods in daily diets is more about lowering sugar intake that it is about lowering sodium intake (Friedman par. 12).

It is important for researchers and physicians to shift their focus from sodium as a cause of high blood pressure to the less-considered but more potent substance known as sugar (Lustig par. 13). Many people suffer high blood pressure because they rely on the knowledge that salt is the main culprit. Therefore, they focus on lowering the amount of salt intake and ignore the possible effect s of high sugar intake. A study conducted at Louisiana State University and published in the journal Circulation found out that reducing sugar intake lowers blood pressure significantly. Studying the effect of sugar on blood pressure is critical because high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke (Hozer et al.).


Sugar is addictive because its consumption causes massive dopamine release in the brain. Like hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, sugar causes a release of dopamine from the nucleus accumbens and causes the malfunctioning of the system that regulates food intake (Alexander 134). Consumption of high-sugar foods induces down-regulation in the dopamine receptors in the brain. As a result, few receptors for the dopamine produced are available. This means that more consumption of sugary foods will be needed in order to get a similar effect from the same amount of food (Lustig par. 15). Some studies have shown that sugar and drugs have similar effects on the brain because of their dopamine-producing effect and the development of similar cravings and withdrawal symptoms (Alexander 138). The consumption of sweets and candies reinforces neuropathways that hardwire the brain to crave sugar and develop addiction. The largest percentage of daily sugar intake comes from alcoholic drinks, soda, fruit juices, cereals, candy bars, corn syrup, and sweetened coffee.

Heart disease

Heart disease is one f the leading causes of death in the world. The disease is largely misunderstood because many people believe that its major cause is saturated fat. However, research has shown that saturate fat is harmless and that sugar is the major driver of heart disease (Hozer et al.). This is primarily because of the harmful effects of fructose on metabolism, which raise the levels of triglycerides, blood glucose, and insulin in the body. These are risk factors for heart disease. High consumption of sugar is a health threat because it causes weight gain and supplies calories that are unaccompanied by vital elements such as fiber, minerals, and vitamins (Lustig par. 10).

It is not clear how excess sugar consumption causes heart disease. However, research has shown that high sugar consumption raises blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke (Hozer et al.). On the other hand, a high-sugar diet leads to the accumulation of fats into the blood stream, which increases the risk of heart disease (Lustig par. 13). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who obtain more than 15% of their daily calorie intake from sugar are at high risks of developing heart disease (O’Connor par. 13). Another cause of heart disease related to consumption of sugar is the increase in uric acid levels in the body. Research has shown that high levels of uric acid in the body increases the risk of heart disease. Physicians use uric acid levels as an indicator for fructose toxicity in the body.


As mentioned in the foregoing discussion, sugar is a toxic, deadly, and addicting substance that has severe implications on the health of individuals. The consumption of sugar in the United States and other developed countries is very high and above the amounts recommended by the World Health Organization. The affects of sugar on the human body include diseases (diabetes, heart disease, pancreatic cancer, and liver failure), obesity, addiction, high blood pressure, cavities, and insulin resistance. People take in added sugar in the form of sweetened beverages, sweetened coffee, candy, corn syrup, and processed foods among others. It is important for people to adhere to the recommendations of the Who regarding the daily intake of sugars in order to avoid its detrimental heal implications. Lowering the amount of sugar intake is as important as lowering the amount of sodium intake. Limiting sugar intake has positive health outcomes because it reduces the development of certain diseases and conditions.

Works Cited

Alexander, Ann. The Sugar Smart Diet: Stop Cravings and Lose Weight While Still Enjoying the Sweets You Love. Rodale, 2013.

Friedman, Lauren. Business Insider, 2014, Web.

Hozer, Michel, Nathalie Bibeau Dawe, and Nava Rastegar. “Sugar Coated Documentary.” Sugar Coated Documentary. Ed. Darby MacInnis, N.p., n.d. Web.

Lustig, Robert. “Sugar: The Elephant in the Kitchen.” The Singju Post, 2016, Web.

O’Connor, Anahad. “Is Sugar Really Bad for You? It Depends.” The New York Times, 2016, Web.

Taubes, Gary. The New York Times. 2011, Web.

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