Sugar Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 03/03/22 •  11 min read
sugar benefits and side effects

HEALTH

Energy: sugar is good for / helps boost energy | sugar side effects may include dementia, developing depression, energy crashes, feelings of hunger, impaired memory, mood swings, spikes in blood sugar

Longevity: sugar sugar side effects may include chronic diseases, chronic inflammation, developing gout, fatty liver disease, heart attack and stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, raise blood pressure, type 2 diabetes

Appearance: sugar sugar side effects may include acne, dental problems, skin aging, visceral fat (a kind of deep belly fat), weight gain, wrinkle formation

Sugar is…

ENVIRONMENT

Water footprint: low, it takes 197 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of sugar crops / 24 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of sugar crops

Carbon footprint: high, 3.93 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of refined cane sugar, a car driving equivalent of 9 miles or 14.5 kilometers

Destruction: high, sugar production is relatively destructive, loss of natural habitats, intensive use of water, heavy use of agro-chemicals, discharge and runoff of polluted effluent and air pollution, leading to degradation of wildlife, soil, air and water where sugar is produced and of downstream ecosystems, impacts relating to irrigation of sugar cane and pollution runoff are of particular concern”

Sugar is…

ANIMALS

Kills: none, sugar production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, sugar production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: various animals, if filtered using bone char, mainly for white sugar OR none, if sugar is labeled “unrefined” and “organic”, ecosystems and wildlife, if filtered using bone char, mainly for White Sugar OR none if sugar is labeled “unrefined” and “organic”

Sugar (labeled ‘unrefined’ and/or ‘organic’) is…

Sugar (labeled ‘white sugar’ or ‘refined’) is…

LABORERS

Health and safety: hazardous, working hours are strenuous, work shifts can be 12 hours per day, 7 days per week, field workers are exposed to chemicals, insecticides and/or fertilizers, must spend long hours in the heat and sun, they become dehydrated, such conditions can lead to illnesses like kidney deformation, skin cancer, sterility, machete accidents occur, truck accidents occur due to overloading, many communities do not have access to clean drinking water, water sources near sugar plants are contaminated with toxic chemicals and residue

Living conditions: poor, Central American sugar industry reports say child labor is prominent, as they are forced since their parents wages are so low

Wages: low, Central American sugar industry reports say women are often not paid minimum wage, monthly salaries do not cover basic needs, some subcontracted workers do not have contracts, social security benefits or job stability

Sugar…

Where does most sugar come from?

India is the world’s largest sugar producer followed by Brazil, the EU, Thailand and China. The world’s top sugar exporting country is Mexico, followed by Australia, Brazil, Guatemala, South Africa, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Swaziland, Zambia and Philippines.

sugar is acidic.

acidic foods and alkaline diet benefits that improve ph levels

Is sugar alkaline or acidic? Sugar is acidic. What is the pH level of sugar? Sugar has a 5.5 pH level when brown sugar and a 4.5 pH level when white sugar, once digested.

When you eat food, it is broken down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are found in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

sugar is gluten free.

glutinous foods have side effects but a gluten free diet can help

Is sugar gluten free? Yes, sugar is gluten free. Sugar does not contain gluten.

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

sugar is not a common food allergen.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Is sugar a common food allergen? No, sugar is not a common food allergen. Some people may experience allergic reactions to sugar but it is relatively rare by comparison.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

These foods account for about 90% of all food allergies in the United States.

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

sugar has a low water footprint.

water footprints of food and products

Does sugar have a high or low water footprint? Sugar has a relatively low water footprint compared to other foods.

What is the water footprint of sugar? It takes 197 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of sugar crops / 24 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of sugar crops.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource? Once it’s gone, it’s gone!

We must do what we can to conserve fresh water and a major way to reduce needless water consumption is to change the way we eat. That’s not to say we need to reduce our water intake…quite the opposite. It’s important for our health to drink lots of water and eat foods that hydrate. The kind of water conservation we’re talking about here is behind the scenes.

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of “water footprints”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

sugar has a high carbon footprint.

carbon footprints of food and food emissions

Does sugar have a high or low carbon footprint? Sugar has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other foods.

What is the carbon footprint of sugar? It takes around 3.93 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of refined cane sugar, a car driving equivalent of 9 miles or 14.5 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…

There are a number of steps we can take to reduce energy output. According to Oxford Martin School researchers, if the world went vegan, eliminating animal-derived products, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and avoid climate damages of $1.5 trillion.

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

sugar is unsustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, is sugar eco friendly? Is sugar sustainable?

Sugar production is relatively unsustainable.

Sugar causes loss of natural habitats, intensive use of water, heavy use of agro-chemicals. Discharge and runoff of polluted effluent and air pollution lead to degradation of wildlife, soil, air and water where sugar is produced and of downstream ecosystems, impacts relating to irrigation of sugar cane and pollution runoff are of particular concern.

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

A 2010 United Nations report said that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world the worst impacts of climate change.

sugar may or may not be vegan.

benefits of vegan food to eat on a vegan diet which helps save animals

Is sugar vegan? Sugar may or may not be vegan. Sugar is processed using bone char, a technique that uses animal parts. Various animal must be killed to create bone char. If sugar is unrefined it is vegan, if it is refined it is likely not vegan. Be sure to read products packaging for specification.

Animals of factory farms and the livestock industry are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. They’re also injected with growth hormones to become fatter faster and live short lives, being slaughtered as soon as they finish growing and are killed prematurely, well before their natural lifespan.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non Vegan Foods List

sugar is a product with labor issues.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Is sugar a product with labor concerns?

At this time there have been no major concerns with sugar production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may come with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Sadly, many labor concerns exist around the world in both developed and developing countries. We must be vigilant to ensure what we buy is not contributing to industries that are unfair to their valuable workers. Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 

Sources:

Sugars, granulated – FoodData Central

Sugar & Sweeteners – USDA ERS

International labor rights forum: New Reports on Labor Conditions in Sugar Industry in Central America

WWF: Sugar and the Environment – Encouraging Better Management Practices in Sugar Production and Processing

Sugar: World Markets and Trade – USDA Foreign Agricultural

Adriane Marie

As an educator, author and conscious consumer advocate, I study and organize ethical info for you to quickly see how our purchases impact animals, people and the planet. I hope you find this HEALabel knowledge useful and can apply it to your life for personal and societal improvement and empowerment.