It is a New Year’s resolution for many: less sugar. Some even do without it completely for a certain period of time. FOCUS online explains how the organism actually changes if you do without sugar from now on.
This year, Germans want to eat healthier. That is the top priority, shows a new survey by the statistics portal “Statista”. And they want to lose weight, this resolution is number five. Many try to avoid sugar. Because high sugar consumption is responsible for obesity and diabetes in the long term, because the constantly fluctuating blood sugar level overwhelms insulin production in the long run. But poor sleep, frequent headaches and even depression can also be the consequences of the constant ups and downs in blood sugar levels.
And because sugar acts like a gentle drug in the brain by activating the reward system, sweet-eaters want more and more of it — until they finally become addicted to sugar.
Sugar in any form therefore rightly has a bad image. It is not even well tolerated as a quick source of energy or as food for the brain. After all, our body can convert all carbohydrates into the necessary glucose, it does not need sugar for this.
That’s why Stefan Kabisch from the German Institute for Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke says: “Our body can get by completely without sugar. A radical renunciation of sugar would not be particularly stressful for our metabolism.”
For our psyche, however, yes: the more sugar someone has in their diet, the clearer the withdrawal symptoms are: irritability, tiredness, headaches.
Our taste buds also have to get used to sugar-free food, such as unsweetened coffee or natural yoghurt.
Incidentally, there are very different definitions of what sugar-free means exactly: Some people only do without cakes, sweets and table sugar in coffee, tea or homemade desserts. The others also look for fructose in fruit and hidden sugar in finished products.
Anyone who is used to a sweet energy boost for breakfast (fruit muesli, milk, honey) or before exercising (banana) may initially miss the power they are used to. And surely more than once a day you have to suppress the feeling that you absolutely need something sweet right now.
Nothing happens physically. The metabolism of a healthy person accepts the brief absence of sugar without much reaction.
The first positive changes can already be seen after three to four days.
The relieved metabolism and stable blood sugar levels reward you with more energy throughout the day, sleep is deeper and more sound. Tight-fitting jeans have a little more play because a sugar-free diet provides fewer calories overall.
Breath is fresher because, without sugar, the oral bacteria have less food and are less able to multiply. However, the craving for something sweet is particularly great now. Fresh fruit or a piece of unsweetened cake (recipes abound on the internet) can satisfy this appetite.
Now the physical improvements are measurable.
Sugar promotes inflammation and thus also blemishes, pimples, acne. When sugar is withdrawn, the complexion becomes more even and the skin more elastic.
Without the sudden release of insulin due to excessive sugar intake, the heart also beats more slowly and the blood pressure remains stable in a good range. The weight loss is evident. Everything together increases general fitness.
At the end of 2018, the WDR program “Markt” tested with a small group of seven people how different ways of avoiding sugar affected weight and blood values. From cutting out sweets and sweetened drinks to radically cutting out sugar and carbohydrates, all subjects improved within four weeks: they lost body fat, not muscle mass. Cholesterol and blood sugar levels improved in some high-risk candidates. In addition, all candidates noticed that their sense of taste had become more refined during the experiment.
After a month, the brain no longer craves the sugar drug.
Now the brain should finally have freed itself from the sugar addiction. Snacking is also no longer fun because the taste buds perceive sweetened foods as over-sugared.
Anyone who has managed without sugar for so long can do without it in the future.
In the long term, those who abstain from sugar reap all the health benefits, a major US study found last year. The researchers had compared test subjects, of whom around 1,200 were genetically able to utilize little glucose, which corresponds to a permanent renunciation of sugar:
Those with low sugar intake had a 57 percent lower risk of obesity and a 42 percent lower risk of diabetes. Their risk of heart failure was 47 percent lower and their risk of premature death was 34 percent lower.