More than 2,500 years ago, refined sugar was developed in India. But it wasn’t until 700 years ago that the exotic flavoring made its way into the Mediterranean area with Cyprus and Sicily becoming centers of production for the rare and expensive spice. That first taste evolved over the centuries into a global obsession. Today every American eats more than 152 pounds of added sugars a year — six full cups a week!

Want to know what that does to your ability to protect and preserve your health? It keeps your body from taking out the trash! And as a result, you get stuck with garbage that accumulates in and around your cells, contributing to a host of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. That’s what researchers from Tufts University’s USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging discovered.

In a lab study published in Aging Cell, they found that the protein that is supposed to be able to clear out cells damaged by eating added sugars are themselves injured so they can’t do their job.

Sugar delivers a double whammy that adds up to a buildup of molecules that speed cellular aging and cause you to have an older RealAge. You become prematurely vulnerable to chronic disease, develop more wrinkles earlier and damage your gut biome.

So if you’re craving a sweet treat, opt for fresh fruit and 70% cacao dark chocolate (an ounce a day). That will make life much sweeter (and healthier) too.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.