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Sugar: The Bad Stuff in Everything We Eat

Updated on August 5, 2016

What is Sugar?

The sparkly sweet white crystals we tend to love so much is actually known as sucrose. It’s the stuff we add to our hot drinks and foods. This is the product extracted from sugar cane and refined into a crystallized state. But the name ‘Sugar’ is actually a term which labels a range of molecules. This is why we find the names fructose, sucrose, glucose, maltose and lactose in our ‘nutritional value’ charts. They are also categorized as carbohydrates which our body uses as an instant fuel source and can be found in fruits and vegetables along with starches like rice and bread. These molecules are found in most of the foods we eat.

Yet today we find that sugar in its refined form can be added to a range of products we eat and drink every day. And the option to add even more of the sweet stuff is available in every café and restaurant.

Sugar in all its forms is in excess in our diets. So much so that in many articles we read concerning sugar, we find that the term addictive and unhealthy is strongly associated.

So… is sugar really that bad for us?

Is it addictive?

And if we stop eating it will we become healthier?

How The Body Uses Sugar

Simply put, sugars (or carbohydrates) are a source of energy for the body. Without it, our bodies would not have the energy to function properly, out brain actually uses glucose in order to function. When we are physically active, our bodies will tap directly into the sugars we have in our blood. Thus when we are not active these nutrients will become stored for later use in the form of fat.

Regardless of what ‘types’ of sugars you eat, whether it be sugar from fruit, chocolate or even starches, the body digests them into simple sugars. Simple sugars are sugar broken down into its most basic form. That way, our body will be able to utilize them whenever it is needed. So when we begin to consume too much sugar in our diets, we begin to see the results.

How Sugar Makes You Fat

Our bodies have a special hormone called Insulin. This is the hormone that regulates our metabolism by responding to the amount of glucose found in our bloodstream. This means that when we have a high amount of glucose in our bloodstream, insulin is pumped in to help distribute it to our cells. Without this process, the glucose is nothing but toxic to our body. Our metabolism is the mechanism used to determine how fast our body burns the fuel we give it into the energy it needs to function. This means that when we eat a high carb or high sugar meal, our body responds accordingly by sending in the insulin to remove the glucose from the bloodstream and take it to the cells that need it. Insulin also tells the body when to directly utilize fat for fuel, or to store it for later use. So when we have high insulin after a sugary meal, the body stops taking from the fat reserves and begins taking from the bloodstream, (you can see how this becomes problematic in a bad diet).

All this sounds good, and it is. For a healthy eater this mechanism works exactly the way it should. However this mechanism is sensitive and is capable of breaking. When the human diet becomes laden with carbohydrates and sugars, the body will pump in Insulin to the point where it no longer becomes efficient in removing the toxins from our bloodstream. Our bodies become insulin resistant and over time diabetes sets in.

This means you will have an over-abundance of insulin in your bloodstream all the time because the body has adapted to the way you eat in order to cope with the strain.

The body will stop utilizing the fat reserves and begin storing fat while taking what it needs directly from the bloodstream. Over time, the fat reserves begin to build up. This is how we get fat.

Sugar Consumption In Different Countires

Do You Think Sugar Is Addictive?

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Is Sugar Addictive?

“Addictive” is a strong word. But yes, sugar does become addictive. This is because it creates a chemical in our brain called dopamine. This is a chemical that creates a ‘feel good’ factor much like drugs do. This mechanism is used as a form of reward to the body. The human before shopping malls and processed foods used it to stimulate the need for glucose in the foods they hunted and gathered. This production of pleasurable dopamine in the brain is similar if not exactly like that of drug abuse. This notion is further supported by the fact that certain people who abstain from a heavy intake of sugar suffer from withdrawal symptoms. What once was a mechanism for survival has become a tool dangerous to our health.

Sugars in Our Modern Diets

The original purpose of sugars in our bodies was to fuel us. This is perhaps why sugar itself cannot be the sole blame to the growing obesity in the modern human. Without sugars, we would not be able to function. It is the increased intake of sugars and the chemical changes in our bodies that cause the problems.

The Modern Diet has taken on a new persona of “fat free”, “sugar free”, “diet” and “reduced sugar”. However the level of sugar in our diets may not necessarily be reduced.

Before processed foods, the natural amount of sugars we consumed was balanced and healthy. Over time, as process foods began to overtake our daily intake, the amount of sugars rose. This is because sugar is in everything. It adds texture, removes acidity and improves taste; from tomato sauce to salad dressing, crisps, bread and beverages. Sugar free products in particular still contain sugar despite its title. The FDA rules that a ‘sugar free’ product must contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving, meaning that there still is sugar in the sugar-free foods that we eat.

It gets even more interesting when looking at the ‘healthy’ alternatives one would possibly go for. Fruit juices for instance, are equally laden with sugars, simply because the amount of fruit within one small bottle consists of more than one fruit. Since it has been removed of its fiber, the product is not as filling as the fruit itself, and we tend to consume more than what is healthy.

Your popular red branded soft-drink for example has 10 grams of sugar per 100ml. The human recommended daily allowance is around 30 grams. If you consider all the other foods you would be eating during the day just after that one can of soda, you would already have gone double over your allowance.

Regular orange juice could contain a little over 30 grams of sugar depending on the product.

So is a Non-Sugar Diet The Ultimate Fat-Loss Diet?

Well… yes. Particularly because most people today consume more sugar than their body can handle.

In the US alone, the average person consumes over 120 grams of sugar a day, which is around 1 liter/36 ounces of the red branded soft drink we all know so well. Germany comes in at a close second place according to the Washington Post going twice over the recommended intake.

And with all the effects sugar has on the human body, one would suggest that cutting down on their sugar intake would be the first and possibly most crucial step towards a healthier lifestyle. Being able to restore the body’s mechanisms to a manageable state means it would be able to work out the toxins and fats.

It all starts with exchanging the packaged and processed foods for wholesome vegetables, fruits and proteins. Even cutting out a teaspoon or two from your coffee or tea would make a profound difference to your health.

Now That You Know....

What is Your Average Daily Soft-Drink Consumption?

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Bibliography

(2016). Retrieved 4 August 2016, from https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-sugar-per-day/

Ask the Experts: Is Sugar an Addictive Drug?. (2016). Healthline. Retrieved 4 August 2016, from http://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/experts-is-sugar-addictive-drug

Ask the Experts: Is Sugar an Addictive Drug?. (2016). Healthline. Retrieved 4 August 2016, from http://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/experts-is-sugar-addictive-drug

Chasey, K. (2016). Modern Day Meal Planning: Eating to Promote Fat-Burning. Breaking Muscle. Retrieved 4 August 2016, from http://breakingmuscle.com/nutrition/modern-day-meal-planning-eating-to-promote-fat-burning

Ferdman, R. (2016). Where people around the world eat the most sugar and fat. Washington Post. Retrieved 4 August 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/02/05/where-people-around-the-world-eat-the-most-sugar-and-fat/

How much sugar is in my drink?. (2016). Rethinksugarydrink.org.au. Retrieved 4 August 2016, from http://www.rethinksugarydrink.org.au/how-much-sugar

Noakes, T., Creed, S., & Proudfoot, J. The real meal revolution.

Questions and Answers About Sugars. (2016). FoodInsight.org. Retrieved 4 August 2016, from http://www.foodinsight.org/Questions_and_Answers_About_Sugars

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    • profile image

      AmeriBev 14 months ago

      Our industry is aligned with the goal of moderation. Our Balance Calories Initiative is promoting this message, and our industry continues to roll out an increasing array of beverage options so that consumers can incorporate beverages into a sensible diet and lifestyle. The prevailing focus should be on overall dietary balance and physical activity, rather than vilifying any one food, beverage or ingredient.

    • Kim Maravich profile image

      Kim Maravich 14 months ago from Cranberry Township, PA

      What a nice article about the dangers of sugars. We could eliminate so much disease if we all scaled back! I especially like the graph about sugar consumption in other countries. Well done!