If you’re a sweet tooth who can never get enough of snacks, cookies, and cakes, you’re not alone. According to the American Heart Association, Americans consume, on average, 77 grams of added sugar per day, which is triple the recommended daily allowance for women. To give you an idea, four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar, so 77 grams is just under half a cup of sugar. The AHA also found that the top source of added sugar comes from beverages (soda, we’re looking at you!), followed by snack foods and desserts. Since so many of us consume more sugar than is recommended, it can lead us to question the impact on our health and what the effects of giving up sugar might be.
First, let’s dig a little deeper into what excess added sugar could do to our bodies. Unlike natural sugar, this type of sweetener includes sugars or syrups that are added during food processing or preparation. It can make food taste delicious, but in excess it can wreak serious havoc on our overall health. For example, Harvard Health Publishing reported that high added sugar intake is associated with everything from diabetes and weight gain to fatty liver disease. Not only that, but the Mayo Clinic warns that excessive consumption of added sugar could also raise triglyceride levels, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Some research has even shown that it may increase the risk of cognitive decline and some types of cancer.
After learning about some of these possible effects of consuming too much sugar, you may be inclined to reduce your intake levels. In fact, some people may even try to remove it entirely or for a set period of time. Cutting back on added sugars, even for just one month, may seem difficult at first, but the benefits it can bring are well worth it. From a lower risk of diabetes to better gut health and less anxiety, read on for the incredible effects of cutting out sugar for 30 days.
Chronic inflammation, which affects nearly 125 million Americans, has been linked to a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and arthritis, and three out of five people worldwide die because of these inflammatory diseases. Among other common lifestyle factors like excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity, and chronic stress that can increase the chances of inflammation, a 2006 research study suggests that sugar may also be directly related. So learning to live without added sugar can help you reduce your risk of some of these inflammatory conditions.
A 2020 report published in the american journal of clinical nutrition found that sugar intake may be a risk factor in the development of some types of cancer, with emphasis on breast cancer. Allison Tallman, MS, RDN, CNSCa registered dietitian at Sporting Smiles, also explains that giving up sugar can also reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.
“Sugar consumption ‘feeds’ cancer cells, even those that already have cancer,” says Tallman.
“While sugar is a source of energy, the type of source (also known as the quality) matters most,” says Tallman.
She points out that refined sugar, like the kind found in processed foods, cookies, chips, and cakes, can make you feel sluggish and lethargic.
“By giving up these foods, and therefore sugar, we are likely to increase our energy and feel better than ever before,” she adds.
So if you were to try a sugar cleanse for a full month, you would likely feel a natural boost in your energy levels.
If you’re someone who struggles with bloating and an unpredictable digestive system, you might want to take a break from sugar. It turns out that cutting out sugar for a month can actually be beneficial for digestive health. One of the ways it can do this is by helping you achieve a better balance of “good” gut bacteria.
“Sugar and refined carbohydrates feed bad bacteria in the gut, which can lead to digestive problems,” she explains. Jenny Askew, MS, RD, LD, ACSM-EP, integrative and functional dietitian and president of The Nutrition Clinic for Digestive Health. This can lead to too many bad bacteria and not enough of the good ones, and can cause gastrointestinal issues like gas, bloating, diarrhea, or even constipation.
“This can [also] contribute to inflammatory conditions — think acne, headaches, and rashes,” Askew adds.
Since we were kids, sugar has been synonymous with cavities, and for good reason. According to Healthy Food America, adults who regularly consume one or two sugary drinks a day have 30% more dental disease than adults who do not consume sugary drinks. In addition, HFA also reports that children who drink sugary sodas regularly have almost twice the risk of tooth decay compared to children who don’t drink soda. During your sugar-free month, swap out sugar-laden beverages with healthier alternatives, like flavored seltzer or unsweetened tea with lemon.
Eliminating added sugar for a month not only has positive effects on our body, but also on our mind. For example, according to one study, a higher intake of sugar in the diet is associated with a higher risk of depression. In a separate 2019 study, it was also found that a high-sugar diet can cause neurobiological changes in brain function, altered emotional states, and anxiety.
According to a recent study published in PLUS ONE, the researchers found that “increased sugar in a population’s food supply was associated with higher rates of type 2 diabetes, independent of obesity rates.” Another study, which was published in the british medical journal, found that regardless of a person’s weight or visceral fat levels, drinking just one sugary drink a day was associated with increased risk of diabetes. Therefore, this risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of diabetes, can be reduced if you can eliminate or severely limit your intake of added sugar.
A recent study in France looked at more than 24,000 adults to see if dietary habits had any effect on whether or not an individual developed acne. What the researchers found was that a diet full of sugar, fat and animal products was linked to an increase in adult acne. Therefore, giving up sugar for a month can be beneficial in lightening the skin.
An earlier version of this story ran on February 24, 2022. It has been updated to include additional copy and review reviews, additional research, and updated contextual links.