You probably know that you need to eat less sugar. After all, the average American puts away more than 150 pounds per year of the sweet stuff, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
But do you know why? To hit a healthy weight and reduce, right? Not so fast. While reducing your intake of added sugars can definitely help you lose weight, the true benefits of eating less sugar go way beyond the scale. Check out these 9 amazing benefits of slimming your sugar habit that have nothing to do with weight loss:
1. You’ll Cut Your Risk of Cancer
In a 2016 Cancer Research study, mice that ate a low-sugar diet were at half the risk of breast cancer compared with mice that consumed a diet with levels of sugar similar to the average American. That’s because fructose, a sugar molecule contained in high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar alike, increases the body’s expression of proteins and fatty acids that promote the development and spread of cancer. And it’s not just breast cancer. In one National Cancer Institute study of 435,674 men and women, people who consumed less added sugar had lower rates of cancer in the esophagus, small intestine and lungs.
2. You’ll Be Happier
Sugar will give you a quick buzz, but it doesn’t last – and can actually end in depression. By causing chemical reactions in the brain that are similar to illicit drugs, sugar-packed foods can lead to severe “come downs” and withdrawal symptoms, per research from the University of Montreal. And in one 2015 study of 70,000 postmenopausal women, those who consumed lower amounts of added sugar and refined carbohydrates were at a lower risk of new-onset depression compared to women who ate the most sugar.
3. You’ll Boost Your Brainpower
Sugar is anything but brain food. Added sugars, especially those in high-fructose corn syrup, impair brain function and result in neuroinflammation, according to 2015 research in the journal Hippocampus. For older adults, the result could be Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. A review in Current Alzheimer Research suggests that Alzheimer’s is actually a sort of “Type 3” diabetes, in which the chronic consumption of high-sugar foods blunts the brain’s ability to effectively use sugar for energy.
4. You’ll Improve Your Heart Health
Promoting weight gain isn’t the only way sugar impacts your cardiovascular health. One JAMA Internal Medicine study of more than 100,000 men and women found that even when they weren’t overweight, people who consumed high-sugar diets were at a greater risk of dying of heart disease. Sugar contributes to atherosclerosis, hypertension, vascular disease, artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias – all by increasing inflammation, per The International Journal of Angiology.
5. You’ll Sport a Whiter Smile
Mom was right. That sugar will rot your teeth. The less added sugar you eat, the less tooth decay you’ll experience, suggests 2015 research from the University of Washington School of Dentistry. Unfortunately, the study also found that most people don’t have an accurate idea as to how much or little sugar they actually eat.
6. You’ll Have a Healthier Liver
In one recent Nature article, University of California–San Francisco researchers make the case that added sugar needs to be controlled just like alcohol – along with warnings that sugar can also cause liver damage. In the liver, sugar and alcohol follow a similar metabolic pathway and can lead to similar results. Plus, research from the Wake Forest School of Medicine shows that, even if you aren’t consuming too many calories per day and you aren’t overweight, cutting down on sugar can reduce your risk of liver damage.
7. You’ll Slash Your Risk of Diabetes
Contrary to popular opinion, weight gain and Type 2 diabetes don’t always go hand-in-hand. In fact, about 15 percent of people with the chronic condition are at a healthy weight, according to the National Institutes of Health. So what does cause Type 2 diabetes? Sugar is the No. 1 culprit, according to a 2015 report published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. And research in Diabetes Care shows that simply drinking one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 26 percent.
8. You’ll Have Better Skin
And by better, we mean less acne and less aging. While a 2014 Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study shows that, yes, sugar does exacerbate acne, research in Dermato-Endocrinology also shows that excess sugar in your bloodstream contributes to form AGEs, aptly named compounds that damage collagen and elastin to cause wrinkles and sagging skin.
9. You’ll Live Longer
Between sugar’s role in diabetes, heart disease, cancer, liver damage and depression, how could reducing your intake not increase your lifespan? In fact, a Harvard School of Public Health study estimates that sweetened beverages contribute to 180,000 deaths worldwide – and 25,000 in America alone – per year. In one Nature Communications study, mice who consumed a diet containing 25 percent added sugar died at twice the rate of rats fed a standard diet.