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What Too Much Sugar Can Do To Your Digestive System – Expert Explains

Simple sugar contains glucose and fructose. Unlike glucose, which every cell of our body can utilize, fructose, however, can be metabolized in the liver alone, share Dr Praveen CR, Senior Consultant, General GI & Laparoscopic Surgeon at Manipal Hospitals, Varthur Road Branch, Bengaluru. He points out that this excess fructose gets converted to fat and leads to fatty liver disease. This results in hypertriglyceridemia, which can be diagnosed with a lipid profile blood test.

“Foods rich in fiber ( vegetables/ fruits/ whole grains) cause adequate distension of the stomach and intestines. The satiety center in the brain gets stimulated and the body gets a signal that adequate food has been ingested. This leads to less craving for food. On the other hand, highly processed foods containing a combination of sugar, salt, and fat leads to an excessive craving for food as it lacks the benefits of fiber-rich food,” share Dr Praveen.

He explains that when one ingests excess sugar, a selective increase in the number of bacteria that prefer sugar occurs. This leads to dysbiosis and an increase in harmful bacteria which prefer to feed on sugars. This in turn leads to the ingestion of processed foods rather than healthy whole food.  

Excess sugar consumption carries with it a wrong signal to the body, to store it as fat. “During evolution, more food meant subsequent periods of starvation. Our ancestors ate a lot of food during spring, due to the lack of food in winter. However, in times of famine, stored fat was utilized for energy. However, in the present scenario of the round-the-clock availability of food, this leads to insulin resistance due to regular glucose spikes. This insulin resistance leads to diabetes and obesity,” Dr Praveen explains.

Also Read: High Blood Sugar – Over 100 Million Indians Have Diabetes; Do Not Ignore These 10 Symptoms

The normal gut has a protective inner lining due to the anti-inflammatory property of the beneficial bacteria. Increased intake of sugars leads to the relative abundance of Proteobacteria (harmful bacteria) in the intestine, says the doctor. “Bacteroidetes, the beneficial bacteria, decrease in number. The effects of endotoxin can no longer be mitigated and gut barrier function weakens. Endotoxins are lipopolysaccharides found in the cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria which causes inflammation. Sugar changes the microbiome balance away from bacteria that support immunity in favor of harmful bacteria. The loss of these immune cells leads to cardiometabolic diseases and diabetes,” says Dr Praveen.

List Of Food With Excess Sugar That You Must Avoid

Dr Praveen CR lists the following food that you need to avoid: 

1. Refined sugar: Avoid excess use in tea/coffee/fruit juices/ regular cooking at home.

2. Bakery foods: Bread, biscuits, cakes, candies, chocolates etc (Can contain in addition to refined sugar, trans-fats and salt)

3. Most packaged foods (factory-produced foods) and snacks: Many have hidden sugar in them Many foods like tomato sauce/ ketchup, and snacks have added sugar. Read the ingredient label carefully.

4. Carbonated drinks: Sodas, soft drinks, and sodas containing sugar.

How Much Sugar Should You Daily Consume

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:

● Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)

● Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)

Note, this includes sugar in all forms, be it added sugar or sugar in food.


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