News flash: We’re all dipped in honey and rolled in sprinkles. The average person shovels in 300 calories from added sugar every day, according to a report from the University of North Carolina. Roughly 20 per cent of us exceed 700 calories of added sugar on a daily basis. That’s an entire cup of sugar. Whoa.
“Not only are we getting added sugar from obvious places like cakes, candy, and soda, but it’s also coming from healthier-sounding packaged products like salad dressing, pasta sauce, and yogurt,” says Elyse Powell, one of the report’s coauthors and a doctoral researcher at UNC. (To be clear, by “added sugar” we’re talking about the super-processed sweet stuff you’d add to a batch of cookies, not the natural sugars found in whole fruit, veggies, and plain milk.) The big takeaway from that UNC report: Most of us could stand to cut back on sugar.
Exactly what you’ll experience when you ditch the sweet stuff will depend on the size of your sugar habit; people on the high end of the sugar-consumption spectrum show addict-like withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, restlessness, and even depression, research has shown. But assuming you’re like the average American, you can expect a few things to happen once you wrestle your sugar habit back into its cage.
Your risk of dying from ticker-related trouble will plummet threefold, according to research from James J. DiNicolantonio, a cardiovascular research scientist at St. Luke’s Mid-Atlantic Heart Institute. Why? “Added sugar chronically raises insulin levels, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing blood pressure and heart rate,” DiNicolantonio explains. “Within a few weeks’ time, you might expect to see a 10 per cent decrease in LDL cholesterol and a 20 to 30 per cent decrease in triglycerides.” Your BP would head in the right direction, too, he says.