impact sugar on health hdr

The Impact of Excess Dietary Sugar on Health

Excess dietary sugar has been shown to have a significant impact on overall health, and this impact extends beyond just issues related to obesity. A recent umbrella review of 73 meta-analyses found that excess dietary sugar is associated with a higher risk of endocrine diseases, heart disease, cancer, and behavioural conditions.

One of the most concerning findings was that excess sugar intake in children may lead to an increased lifetime risk of obesity, which can reduce longevity and healthspan. In rat models, excess dietary sugar has been found to lengthen the villi of intestinal cells. Villi are finger-like projections that line the inner surface of the small intestine, and they play a crucial role in nutrient absorption. The increased efficiency of sugar absorption from these longer villi can lead to obesity, particularly when it occurs at a young age

Excess sugar intake during childhood has also been linked to a 27% higher risk of asthma, an inflammatory condition of the airways that can persist into adulthood. Additionally, excess sugar intake has been found to affect behaviour and mood. It has been linked to conditions such as ADHD and depression. Given the huge number of prescriptions being written to manage these conditions, it is always worth considering if there are any dietary interventions that can be made before a medication is prescribed. 

Excess sugar intake can also lead to elevated uric acid levels, which can cause elevated levels of uric acid and gout. Uric acid is not only associated with gout, a very painful inflammation of the joints. It has been associated with insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease risk, both of which can impact longevity and healthspan. Fructose, a type of sugar, has been found to increase uric acid levels, worsen inflammation, and reduce nitric oxide, which can lead to endothelial dysfunction, another condition that negatively impacts longevity and healthspan.

Endothelial dysfunction is a condition where the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, does not function properly. It can contribute to the development of several cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease. Endothelial dysfunction worsens when nitric oxide levels are reduced, and elevated uric acid levels have been linked to the development of this condition. By reducing sugar intake, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of endothelial dysfunction, which can improve longevity and healthspan.

To mitigate the risks of excess sugar intake and promote longevity and healthspan, this review recommends that individuals keep their total added sugar intake to less than 25 grams per day. This is equivalent to about 5 to 6 teaspoons of sugar daily. 

Excess dietary sugar poses significant risks to overall health, which can have an impact on longevity and healthspan. To promote a longer, healthier life, limit your added sugar intake to less than 25 grams per day, and enjoy the occasional sweet treat guilt-free!


Dr J Hugh Coyne 

Private GP 

Parsons Green, Fulham