The Dangers of High Blood Sugar

Written By Zain Ghanchi on October 3, 2022

Who doesn't love sugar? The foods we eat are packed with the tiny macromolecule and consuming them in limited proportions is great for regulating our blood sugar, releasing dopamine to stimulate our brain, and overall contributing to a balanced diet. The issue emerges when consumers of sugar start to love it a little too much and their bodies start to depend on abundant consumption. This condition is associated with high blood sugar. 

Hyperglycemia (commonly known as high blood sugar) is a diabetic condition resulting in the incorrect production and functioning of insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone that directs cells to assist with the dispersal and expenditure of energy derived from glucose and other monosaccharides to power several systems. Without this functioning correctly, these molecules accumulate in the bloodstream as sugars, inevitably increasing blood sugar levels and leading to a plethora of health-related issues. 

Obesity and fatigue are immediate effects of high blood sugar, while long-term effects may result from repetitive patterns of sugar consumption, namely organ damage, heart disease, nerve damage, and other metabolic diseases. The issue with assuming that consumption of sugar indefinitely leads to obesity is that there is a lack of evidence that supports either side of the argument: consumption of sugars will/will not lead to obesity. Regardless, there is enough support that helps antagonize sugar as a contributor to metabolic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type-2 diabetes (T2DM), both of which will be discussed later in the paper. 

The path to metabolic diseases may stem from many places but a similar path is taken for each step. The excess consumption of sugars and sugar aliases in common foods and beverages helps stimulate dopamine secretion in the brain, making an individual more likely to consume the food a second time. This surge to the brain creates a short–term pleasure effect that becomes numbed and deficient the more it is released. The impact is cyclical yet the effects are exponential. Here is a diagram of how sugar addiction is formed:

An abundant intake of sugars can, directly and indirectly, affect the individual. A 2014 study done by Dr. Quanhe Yang of the CDC concluded that there was a positive-direct correlation between calories based on added sugar percentages and CVD percentages in the tested population. These direct effects can be linked to several mechanisms in which liver metabolism is affected: 

Studies suggest that consuming glucose-based foods is more beneficial compared to fructose-based foods as their monosaccharide structure can be easily broken down by the body’s internal system. Therein lies the issue that consumers tend to not understand the complex differences in the types of sugars they consume, potentially leading them down the path of heart disease, obesity, or much worse due to their misinformed decisions in the grocery stores, homes, or restaurants.

Sugar can be produced in various ways and there are many varieties of sugar as a result. Organic superfoods with sugar alternatives are often thrown around terms, however, that is not going to be discussed in this paper. Aliases such as high fructose corn syrup, nectars, molasses, and more are disguised versions of sugars found in our daily foods. There should also be a clear distinction made between natural sugars and artificial sugars; natural sugars are the sugars that are found in food before it is processed. Fruits and vegetables often have a high yield of natural sugars and consuming them is permissible and advised for the average healthy person between the ages of adolescence to adulthood. Added sugars are sugars that are externally added to the food product in order to heighten taste. The most common foods that include added sugars are breakfast cereals, ice creams, candies, condiments, snack foods, and bread among other items. These processed items may advertise a total sugar value that includes a small portion of natural sugars while the greater percentage will bear the added sugar labeling. In North America, these sugary foods are often sold in such a way that they use vibrant and innovative marketing techniques to sell the idea of consuming an all-safe, delicious product when in reality the product is slowly increasing our risk for metabolic disease and conditioning us to be less perceptive to consuming sugar at higher concentrations over time. 

As predicted by the Sugar Consumption Cycle, once an individual develops a major neurological and bodily dependence on sugar to regulate low insulin levels, they may start to develop high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol which is a nonpolar molecule that can act as a plaque and clog arteries, causing major damage to the heart. Chronic inflammation of the blood vessels, vasculitis, is a major danger of hyperglycemia and is an in-between stage that triggers many other conditions. The heart is a major organ that is vital for distributing blood throughout the body so that each part functions correctly, so an early abundant intake of sugar is likely to lead to early health complications. The strain caused by sugar dependency can also create drowsiness and lowered senses in a person due to not having correct regulation occurring in the body. The body will slowly adjust to higher sugar levels and crave higher levels for general homeostasis but will react if those demands are not met. If you have ever had a headache while going on a sugar-free diet, it is likely because you have been having too much sugar in your regular diet so the body is just adjusting to the withdrawal. Besides the implications on the heart and mind, sugar addiction can also cause tooth decay and gum inflammation.

Although each person is different, the American Heart Association advises that men consume no more than about 150 calories (~9 tablespoons) of sugar and that women consume no more than about 100 calories (~6 tablespoons) of sugar. This may change from person to person based on age, preexisting health conditions, family history, and other factors, but it is a good guideline for most. It may be difficult for people to count their macros and adjust their diet based on prior consumption, but if someone feels that they may be susceptible to high blood sugar or have even been diagnosed with it by a physician, they may try to avoid certain foods or look for alternatives. The obvious foods are primarily desert foods (donuts, ice cream, chocolate, cakes, and sweet drinks) but also the processed foods we eat from outside restaurants should be avoided. Surprisingly, pizza, an extremely popular food, includes about 6 to 10 grams of sugar in a single slice on average depending on ingredients and preparation. This is a specific example of a food that is unexpectedly filled with added sugars but there are many examples just like this that we consume on a daily basis. 

The best alternative to added sugars is natural sugars. If you are craving something sweet for dessert, try to eat fruits and avoid processed food–your heart will thank you for it. Consuming natural sugars not only prevents CVD and other diseases but increases bodily performance by providing enriching nutrients that help power the body. It is difficult to create concrete rules on sugar consumption because humans differ in so many aspects. This is just a guideline of sorts to prevent high blood sugar but is by no means a complete prevention plan or treatment guide. In fact, this is only the first part of a series of papers that will discuss hyperglycemia and its associated risks. Avoiding abundant sugar consumption is a great method of avoiding high blood sugar, however, there is nothing wrong with having sugar in small portions from time to time. 


“Hyperglycemia in Diabetes.” Mayo Clinic, 

Quanhe Yang, PhD. “Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality.” JAMA Internal Medicine,

Vos, Miriam B., et al. “Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.”

Yang Q;Zhang Z;Gregg EW;Flanders WD;Merritt R;Hu FB; “Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality among US Adults.” JAMA Internal Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine,