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Health Experts Explain How Donuts And Other Sugary Foods Can Lead To Age-Related Diseases

By Faith Geiger,


When you think about the health effects of your diet, you may mostly consider physical effects like weight gain. However, it’s important to remember that your diet can play a role in practically every aspect of your health, from your skin to your brain. In fact, according to experts, the ingredients in many processed foods are closely linked to age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and more. For this reason, it’s especially important to be conscious of what you’re eating as you age; eating a healthy diet is an essential part of keeping both your body and brain healthy over 40.

To learn more about the link between processed foods and age-related diseases and discover some of the worst options you should consider cutting out of your diet, we spoke to Robert Iafelice, MS, RDN, Nutrition Expert at SETFORSET and Nancy Mitchell , registered nurse. They told us that foods high in processed sugars–and donuts in particular–should be avoided as much as possible. Find all of their insight below!


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Foods with processed sugars like donuts

There’s no denying that sugar is delicious (not to mention addicting), but unfortunately, it’s also terrible for your overall health–especially when it comes to age-related diseases. While there are tons of unhealthy sugary foods out there, Iafelice says that donuts are among the worst due to their combination of both sugars and unhealthy fats.

So, what makes sugar so bad for your brain, exactly? And what diseases does it put you at risk of? Unfortunately, a lot of them, from Alzheimer’s to heart disease.  “A diet high in processed sugars may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” Mithcell warns. In fact, she points out that Azheimer’s disease is frequently referred to as “diabetes of the brain” due to its link to high blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. “Studies suggest that chronically high blood glucose may contribute to cell damage throughout the nervous system, including the parts of the brain associated with this neurodegenerative disease,” she warns. Yikes!

Iafelice agrees, explaining that sugar is toxic to your body’s cells, and eating too much of it by consuming foods like donuts will lead to insulin resistance over time. “Chronic consumption of sugar can lead to elevated blood sugar over time, which is essentially diabetes. As we get older, our cells become more resistant to insulin, which lowers blood sugar,” he says, noting that insulin resistance leads to high blood glucose levels. As it turns out, research shows that brain cells can also become resistant to insulin, “and thus cannot use glucose to efficiently fuel the brain.” According to Iafelice, “This may be a key factor in the epidemic of Alzheimer's,” because “without energy, brain cells die off.”

But it isn’t just Alzheimer’s that you’re putting yourself at risk of when you consume too many processed sugars. Iafelice points out that cancer cells also love sugar, and that insulin can stimulate the growth of cancer cells. “High sugar from the diet can lead to chronically high blood sugar. This is very favorable for the growth of cancer cells.” Additionally, high blood sugar can raise your risk of heart disease. “High blood sugar is inflammatory, and inflammation promotes plaque formation and cardiovascular diseases,” he says. “There you have it… all the major age-related diseases linked to high blood sugar.” Say it ain’t so!

To make matters worse, there’s also the issue of the unhealthy fats that donuts and many other sweet treats can pack in. “Bad fats (e.g., trans fatty acids and *too many* omega-6 fats) get into the membranes and make them more rigid and less responsive to insulin. This fosters insulin resistance. So, pair too much sugar with unhealthy fats, and you get accelerated aging,” Iafelice adds.

What to eat instead

For these reasons and many more, it’s important to limit your intake of donuts and other processed foods. Luckily, there are plenty of healthy options that can still please your sweet tooth. Iafelice suggests eating dark chocolate that’s at least 85% cocoa solids, or dark chocolate-covered nuts. He notes that “basically without a lot of sugar and/or unhealthy fats.” Will be a better choice. And while you may miss the sugary goodness of a donut, taking care of your body will be well worth it in the long run.

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