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Carbohydrates Overconsumption: How Does It Affect Your Body?

March 8, 2023

Carbohydrates are inherently harmless, but too much of them is bad.

This week’s guest article discusses how excess carbohydrates affect your body.

African lady in a stall selling fresh food including yams and fruits and other carbohydrates

Understanding Food Groups

Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients in food. They are a large group of organic compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

The most common carbohydrate is starch in grains and legumes (beans). Starch typically breaks down into glucose molecules, which the body’s cells use for energy.

Glucose also helps with digestion and absorption of nutrients from food.

Other common forms of carbohydrates include sugar, fibre, and cellulose.

Sugars include fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), galactose (in milk products), and glucose or dextrose (simple sugars).

These components are found in products people consume daily, but how do carbohydrates affect your body?

This article answers this question with facts about this group of compounds and their effects when overconsumed.

Nigerian jollof rice served with salad is a healthy source of carbohydrates

Facts About Carbohydrates

Some people see carbohydrates as a deterrent to their fitness and health journey. In reality, carbohydrates are inherently safe to consume.

Here are some facts about carbohydrates that you should be aware of to create a healthy relationship with them and food.

Carbohydrates Do Not Make You Fat

Carbohydrates are essential to human health. They are macronutrients, meaning they comprise a large portion of the diet. They also break down into simple sugars and complex carbohydrates. The former further breaks down into glucose and fructose, while the latter contains starch, such as wheat or rice.

Carbohydrates provide the necessary energy for your body to function. They also help your body build muscle, repair tissue, and create enzymes and hormones, so consuming carbohydrates does not make you fat.

Overconsumption of starchy carbohydrates can cause weight gain

Starchy carbohydrates are the kind of carbohydrates that can cause weight gain because of their calorie density. They are very easy to digest, breaking down into sugar and flooding your bloodstream with glucose. This effect increases insulin production, which helps you store fat instead of using it for energy.

Processed carbohydrates including bread and pasta

Moderation is key to maintaining health and weight

Carbohydrates make up energy sources in our diet, along with fats and proteins. They are essential because they provide energy for our bodies, but too much or too little can be harmful. Moderate consumption of carbohydrates is key to maintaining health and weight.

Carbohydrate portioning can help people maintain a healthy weight. Otherwise, excess carbohydrate intake can lead to weight gain, poor metabolic health, and an increased risk of heart disease. Your body may also store extra calories from carbohydrates as fat instead of burning them off as energy.

These outcomes can happen when you consume too much bread, cereals, pasta, and other carbohydrate products.

Portions are different for men and women.

The effect of carbohydrates differs between men and women because of several factors, such as body fat percentage and hormones.

When it comes to portioning carbohydrates, men and women have different needs. Men need more carbohydrates because they have more muscle mass than women. Men also burn more energy at rest than women.

Limit snacks

Popular snacks and drinks such as chips, popcorn, sodas, and beers are delicious, but too much of them can be detrimental. Consuming too much junk food can increase blood sugar. Snacks like crispy pig skin can also increase blood pressure.

The key here is to consume snacks and carbonated drinks in moderation or mix in other sources of carbohydrates like vegetables. Yams, sweet potatoes, and taro are all excellent alternatives to junk food.

Diseases From Carbohydrate Overconsumption

As the old proverb goes, “excess of everything is bad.” Here are some diseases that result from carbohydrate overconsumption.

  • Diabetes
    • An excessive amount of sugar in the blood is called hyperglycemia. This condition results from a lack of insulin, a hormone regulating blood sugar levels. The body produces insulin when you eat food with carbohydrates and other nutrients. 

      When you consume a meal that contains carbohydrates and protein, your body breaks down the food into glucose (sugar) molecules, which your bloodstream absorbs through the digestive tract.

      Too much glucose in the bloodstream at any time—even after eating foods containing carbohydrates—can create havoc on your body’s systems and lead to health problems such as diabetes mellitus.

      In the long run, diabetes can also lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and limb amputation. Suppose you are in the early stages of this disease.
    • In that case, you should follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, maintain normal body weight, and avoid tobacco to prevent it from worsening.
Mix of healthy carbohydrate food options
  • High cholesterol
    • Your body uses cholesterol to make hormones and other important chemicals, including vitamin D and bile acids, which help you digest food. Cholesterol also helps protect your blood vessels from damage.
    • A common cause of high cholesterol is a diet high in saturated and trans fats. It is essential to keep track of how much fat you consume to maintain good health and avoid any adverse effects associated with consuming too much fat in your diet. Examples of food that accelerates high cholesterol include red meat, butter, fried food, processed meat, and eggs. High cholesterol can lead to brain blockage, stroke, memory issues, stomach pain, and leg numbness, among other things.
  • Heart disease
    • Carbohydrates provide your body with energy, but a diet with too many carbohydrates can easily lead to heart disease. For this reason, exercise is a crucial aspect of balancing carbohydrates since they provide energy to the muscles instead of turning them into fat. 

Creating The Perfect Balance

One of the best things in life is eating the food we want. Having the right amount of meat, grains, vegetables, and fruits is the simplest way to give yourself all the nutrients.

You can opt to have red meat one day and then have a healthier meal the next.

Regardless of what you consume, the goal is always to have a balanced diet.

It is okay to treat yourself here and there. Make sure to balance it out with healthier food. Quinoa, yoghurt, and berries are great alternatives that can satisfy your tastebuds.

Not all healthy things have to taste bad. Depending on what you like and do not like, you can search for more nutritious foods that appeal to you.

Too much of anything can harm your body, but too little of something can do the same. Find the right balance in your diet, mix in some exercise, and your body should be perfectly fine.

More Reading

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on various healthcare conditions to promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare practitioner’s management of your specific condition.
Don’t hesitate to contact a health practitioner to discuss your condition or reach us directly 

Image Credits: Canva

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