7 Signs You’re Eating Too Much Sugar – Everyone loves sugar, and enjoying sugary treats can certainly make your life a whole lot sweeter. While consuming it in moderation is fine, it’s the excess consumption of sugar that can potentially lead to some health complications. But what exactly happens when you eat too much sugar?
“It’s important to be mindful of your sugar intake and try to limit the consumption of added sugars in your diet,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD. “The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their daily added sugar intake to no more than 100 calories (about 25 grams or 6 teaspoons) and men to no more than 150 calories (about 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons). Be sure to read food labels and make informed choices to maintain a balanced and healthy diet.”
Eating more than these recommended daily limits on occasion will most likely not have too many side effects, but research has found that there are serious health complications that can come from consuming too much sugar consistently. For one, added sugar has been linked to an increased risk of chronic inflammation. Research also shows that excess sugar consumption over time can increase your risk of diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. On top of all that, too much sugar can also negatively impact your gut microbiome, which can also have pro-inflammatory effects.
If you’re regularly consuming too much sugar, your body will start to send you signals that something is off, which can help you begin to make changes and hopefully avoid some of the negative side effects of overconsumption.
Here are some signs that you may be eating too much-added sugar in your diet.
You’re constantly craving sugar.
According to Goodson, “If you find yourself constantly craving sugary foods or drinks, it may be a sign that you’re consuming too much sugar.” She says that this is because “High sugar intake can lead to a cycle of cravings and overconsumption due to blood sugar spikes and crashes.”
Your blood sugar will rise and fall more quickly—leading to a crash—when you consume foods high in sugar and void of other nutrients like fiber or protein.
This is what the Glycemic Index can help explain. If a food has a high glycemic rating, it means it is absorbed by your body at a fast rate and will cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, leading to more cravings. These foods include things like candy, soda, donuts, muffins, etc. If a food has a low glycemic rating, it means it contains fiber to help your body absorb it more slowly and will therefore create a more balanced blood sugar response. These foods include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc.
Eating high-sugar foods (also known as high-glycemic foods) may spike your blood sugar and leave you craving more.
Your energy levels have been fluctuating.
Speaking of blood sugar crashes, another symptom you may experience after eating too much sugar is fluctuations in your energy levels—which can be caused by rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.
“A diet high in sugar can lead to energy spikes and crashes, and if you experience frequent energy fluctuations, feeling hyperactive and then suddenly fatigued, it could be due to excessive sugar consumption,” says Goodson.
If you experience this often, you can balance your blood sugar better by “pairing a high-fiber carbohydrate (a whole grain or fruit) with some protein,” Goodson explains. “Protein slows down digestion and helps stabilize blood sugar after a meal or snack.”
You might be experiencing dental problems.
If you’re experiencing issues with your oral health, sugar may be the culprit.
“Sugar is a primary contributor to tooth decay and cavities, so if you’re experiencing frequent dental issues, it could be a sign of excessive sugar consumption,” says Goodson.
Research from Frontiers in Oral Health says that excess sugar consumption is the number one cause of dental carries—AKA cavities. The World Health Organization says that sugar is to blame when it comes to dental cavities and that they develop when mouth bacteria take sugar and metabolize it, which creates an acid that weakens the tooth enamel.
You may have gained weight.
If you’re eating too much sugar regularly, you may notice that you’re gaining weight.
“Notice a higher number on the scale? It could be because you’re eating too much sugar. High sugar can disrupt metabolism and can damage the ecosystem of our gut microbiome. A healthy gut helps regulate blood glucose and insulin levels, so when you’re eating too much sugar, you’re forcing that ecosystem to over-work and expect more sugar to keep those balances in check. The moral of the story is, the more sugar you eat, the more your body thinks it needs, which makes you more hungry, [and may lead to] weight gain,” says Courtney D’Angelo, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and author at Go Wellness.
It’s also important to note that eating foods higher in sugar is not going to leave you feeling satisfied or give you the nutrients your body needs.
“Added sugar is a source of empty calories, meaning it provides calories only and no beneficial nutrients. Products that have added sugar are higher in calories and lower in nutrient quality, which when consumed often can result in weight gain,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements.
You may be experiencing chronic pain.
Unfortunately, consuming too many sugary foods and drinks consistently can lead to chronic pain. A report published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine shows that too much fat and sugar in osteoarthritic patients may lead to increased chronic pain, while another report published in Frontiers in Nutrition says that added sugar is “an accomplice of inflammation” and therefore can contribute to chronic pain.
“Your chronic pain and stiffness may be the result of consuming too much-added sugar,” adds Best. “This is due to the inflammation that added sugar causes in the body because it is a highly inflammatory ingredient.”
You may constantly feel hungry and unsatisfied.
Sugary foods are known for leaving you feeling hungry, so it’s important to notice how satiated you feel after a meal.
“Sugar is usually high in calories, so when you’re done eating it, your body may feel full—but only for a short period. The body burns through sugar quickly because it lacks any real nutrients such as proteins, fiber, and healthy fats. As your body burns the sugar it ramps up the hunger strikes, causing compulsive snacking, mindless eating, and ultimately more sugar,” says D’Angelo.
High amounts of sugar can also interfere with a hormone in our body called leptin, which is known for regulating hunger. A decrease in leptin levels commonly leads to more hunger and an increase in appetite.
Goodson also adds that if you’re specifically eating high-sugar breakfasts, you’ll feel hungry way before lunchtime.
“Because you have not eaten anything all night, your body uses the carbohydrates you eat in the morning rapidly, which can leave you feeling extra hungry mid-morning,” says Goodson. “To combat this, choose a high-fiber carbohydrate at breakfast like oatmeal or whole grain toast and pair it with protein like eggs or Greek yogurt. The fiber and protein will help you stay fuller longer after breakfast.”
You may have high blood pressure.
And lastly, eating too much sugar may contribute to increased blood pressure levels in some people. For instance, a study published in Nutrients found that there was a strong link between increased added sugar intake and higher levels of blood pressure in participants between 65-80 years old.
“If you’ve noticed an increase in your blood pressure, you may be consuming too much added sugar. Added sugar raises uric acid in the body, which in turn inhibits nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide (NO) is necessary to keep the blood vessels flexible and when there is a decrease of NO in the body blood pressure will rise,” says Best.
A previous version of this story was published on June 3, 2022. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, additional research, and updated contextual links.