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14-Day No Sugar Challenge: Evidence-Based Benefits and More

It is no longer news that consuming added sugar in excess is deleterious to your overall health.

However, many Americans consume lots of added sugar daily. This comes in the form of sweetened baked goods, candy, soda, sugary breakfast cereals, etc.

Reducing your intake of added sugar is beneficial to your health. Why? Because studies have shown that excessive sugar consumption is associated with a high risk of chronic health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver (1,2,3,4,5,6).

Many people engage in a “no sugar” challenge to cut down on their added sugar intake. The goal of this practice is to cut out every form of added sugar for a specific period.

This article explains the benefits of a 14-day no sugar challenge.


How does it work?

The primary objective of the 14-day no sugar challenge is to avoid the intake of every form of added sugar for 14 days. Instead of taking foods that contain added sugar, you eat more nutrient-dense, whole foods free of added sugar.

The 14-day no sugar challenge does not restrict the intake of natural sugars, such as those found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Instead, the goal is to exclude foods that contain added sugars from your diet.


What are the health benefits of the 14-day no sugar challenge?

Here’s the thing: any diet that reduces or completely excludes added sugar will be of immense benefit to the individual's overall health, especially among those who consume added sugar in high amounts.

For any dietary pattern to succeed, the dieter must be consistent, and this is not necessarily the point of a 14-day no sugar challenge.

If you exclude sugar from your diet for 14 days and then return to a high-sugar diet shortly after that, you’ll lose the benefits just as quickly as they came.

Below are some of the benefits associated with a low-sugar diet:

1. You will lose your appetite for sugar

Every time you consume a sugary food, your pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin, which goes into your blood and pushes the sugars down right into your cells, causing a low blood sugar situation (hypoglycemia) that causes you to crave sugar. So, by getting rid of the sugar, you get rid of the craving for it.


It is important to note that frequently taking in beverages and foods containing plenty of added sugar negatively affects blood sugar management. And this may put you at risk of type 2 diabetes.


Sweetened drinks and foods like candy, soda, baked goods, and energy drinks are loaded with sugars rapidly absorbed by the body.


Diets that contain these types of sugar are linked to insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels. In insulin resistance, the cells of your body lose their sensitivity to insulin.


The result may be elevated insulin and blood sugar levels, ultimately damaging the cells and increasing your risk of chronic diseases (3,7,8,9).

2. You’ll be less hungry

Do you know that it is the sugar that keeps you hungry all the time? This may sound surprising, but yes, it is! When you give up the sugar, you become a lot less hungry because you stabilize the sugar, and now your cells can be fed. However, when you have too much sugar in your body, it becomes toxic, and the body starts rejecting it. This process is known as insulin resistance. So, your body is blocking insulin because it controls sugar, and your body is desperately trying to limit the amount of sugar inside the cells, and your body considers this a bad thing.

So, when you give up taking in excess added sugar, insulin resistance will reverse, and you can absorb proper amounts of fuel and nutrients a lot better. After all, insulin resistance blocks the absorption of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and that’s one of the functions of insulin.

3. Less fatigue

Cutting back on sugary beverages and foods will keep you more energetic. Instead, eating more protein-rich foods or foods higher in fiber, healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins will improve your overall health and keep you more energized.

4. You’ll lose excess water and fat

Beverages and foods that are high in added sugar are rich in calories. However, they are deficient in nutrients like fiber and protein. This explains why sugary diets have been linked to weight gain (10,11).

High sugar intake is associated with a high level of visceral fat. Visceral fat is a kind of fat that surrounds your internal organs. Having too much visceral fat is associated with an increased risk of chronic disease (12).

Excluding added sugar from your diet promotes weight loss, especially when you back it up with a diet rich in nutrients such as fiber and protein (13).

5. Enhanced mood

It is no longer news that eating sugary food can trigger the release of a burst of energy. But then, consistent intake of added sugar can affect your mood negatively. A 2017 study (14) published in the journal Scientific Reports found that consuming sugar in excess has a long-term negative effect on the psychological health of an individual.

According to the results from this study, intake of sugar from sweet beverages and foods increases the likelihood of depression and other mood disorders, especially in men. This may be due to the effect of sugar on the brain. Many factors contribute to mental illness, but reducing your sugar intake can improve your mental health overall.

6. Better skin

Everyone knows that Americans spend millions of dollars yearly on skincare products. If you’ve ever done a facial or spent roughly $60 for a serum, you’ll understand that it takes so much to maintain the fresh appearance of your skin. But on the other hand, there is a low-cost alternative to better skin, such as cutting down your sugar intake.

Excessive consumption of sugar can affect your skin seriously. A high sugar diet is associated with psoriasis, acne, and other skin conditions. Excessive intake of sugar can also cause premature aging of the skin. If you want to look good, begin by drastically reducing the amount of sugar you consume.

7. Less inflammation

Excess consumption of added sugar contributes to inflammation. Chronic, low-grade inflammation is involved in developing chronic conditions like depression, dementia, and diabetes. Cutting down on sugar intake, especially sugary drinks, and added sugars, can reduce inflammation, lowering your risk for chronic health conditions.

Other benefits of moderating or reducing your sugar intake include:

· Improved liver and heart health

· Enhances the growth of brain cells

· Builds new enzymes that help your body to run on fat fuel


References

  1. Wang, H., Steffen, L. M., Zhou, X., Harnack, L., & Luepker, R. V. (2013). Consistency between increasing trends in added-sugar intake and body mass index among adults: the Minnesota Heart Survey, 1980-1982 to 2007-2009. American journal of public health103(3), 501–507. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2011.300562
  2. Jensen, T., Abdelmalek, M. F., Sullivan, S., Nadeau, K. J., Green, M., Roncal, C., Nakagawa, T., Kuwabara, M., Sato, Y., Kang, D. H., Tolan, D. R., Sanchez-Lozada, L. G., Rosen, H. R., Lanaspa, M. A., Diehl, A. M., & Johnson, R. J. (2018). Fructose and sugar: A major mediator of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Journal of hepatology68(5), 1063–1075. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2018.01.019
  3. Malik, V. S., Popkin, B. M., Bray, G. A., Després, J. P., & Hu, F. B. (2010). Sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease risk. Circulation121(11), 1356–1364. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.876185
  4. Qin, P., Li, Q., Zhao, Y., Chen, Q., Sun, X., Liu, Y., Li, H., Wang, T., Chen, X., Zhou, Q., Guo, C., Zhang, D., Tian, G., Liu, D., Qie, R., Han, M., Huang, S., Wu, X., Li, Y., Feng, Y., … Zhang, M. (2020). Sugar and artificially sweetened beverages and risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and all-cause mortality: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. European journal of epidemiology35(7), 655–671. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-020-00655-y
  5. Narain, A., Kwok, C. S., & Mamas, M. A. (2016). Soft drinks and sweetened beverages and the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International journal of clinical practice70(10), 791–805. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcp.12841
  6. Malik, V. S., & Hu, F. B. (2019). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Cardiometabolic Health: An Update of the Evidence. Nutrients11(8), 1840. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081840
  7. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Mar 30. Published in final edited form as: Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2007 Jun; 5(2): 183–193. doi: 10.1089/met.2006.0038
  8. Freeman AM, Pennings N. Insulin Resistance. [Updated 2021 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507839/
  9. Ormazabal, V., Nair, S., Elfeky, O. et al. Association between insulin resistance and the development of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovasc Diabetol 17, 122 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12933-018-0762-4
  10. Stinson, E. J., Piaggi, P., Ibrahim, M., Venti, C., Krakoff, J., & Votruba, S. B. (2018). High Fat and Sugar Consumption During Ad Libitum Intake Predicts Weight Gain. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)26(4), 689–695. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.22124
  11. Poti, J. M., Braga, B., & Qin, B. (2017). Ultra-processed Food Intake and Obesity: What Really Matters for Health-Processing or Nutrient Content?. Current obesity reports6(4), 420–431. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-017-0285-4
  12. Yi, S. Y., Steffen, L. M., Terry, J. G., R Jacobs, D., Jr, Duprez, D., Steffen, B. T., Zhou, X., Shikany, J. M., Harnack, L., & J Carr, J. (2020). Added sugar intake is associated with pericardial adipose tissue volume. European journal of preventive cardiology27(18), 2016–2023. https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487320931303
  13. Te Morenga, L., Mallard, S., & Mann, J. (2012). Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)346, e7492. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e7492
  14. Knüppel, A., Shipley, M. J., Llewellyn, C. H., & Brunner, E. J. (2017). Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific reports7(1), 6287. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7

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