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Sugar remains an undeniably important part of modern life.

  • What is Sugar?
    Sugars are carbohydrates, one of the three macronutrients—along with dietary fat and protein—that provide us with calories. But all carbohydrates are not sugars. Sugars occur naturally in dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Sugars are also used as ingredients in many packaged foods and beverages. The most familiar sugar is sucrose (i.e., table sugar), which is a disaccharide made of two simple sugars: the monosaccharides fructose and glucose. Sucrose, fructose, and glucose are examples of sugars that are naturally occurring but are also used as added sugars. Other sugars commonly added to foods include corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Why are sugars added to foods?
    Sugars play important roles in foods, and taste is only one of them. In addition to sweet taste, sugars provide various technical functions in food science, including contributing to a food’s color, structure, and texture; balancing acidity; controlling crystallization in candies and chocolates; providing a medium for the growth of yeast in baked goods; and preventing spoilage by binding water to reduce its activity.
  • Are sugars safe to eat?
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has examined numerous sugars, including allulose, glucose, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, lactose and maltose, and determined that they are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). You can learn more about the FDA GRAS review process here.
  • How does the body use sugars?
    Sugars are one source of energy for the body, with each gram of sugar providing about four calories. The body uses all types of sugars in similar ways. Once ingested, sugars are broken down into their simplest form. During this process, the body does not distinguish between sugars that are added to foods and sugars that occur naturally in foods, because these sugars are, chemically, the same. In the digestion of the disaccharide sucrose—the most common type of sugar—the monosaccharides glucose and fructose are released into the bloodstream. Glucose is the primary fuel utilized by the brain and working muscles. To protect the brain from a potential fuel shortage, the body maintains a constant level of glucose in the blood. Dietary glucose can be stored in the liver and muscle cells in units called glycogen. When the level of glucose in the blood starts to drop, glycogen can be converted to glucose to maintain blood glucose levels. Several hormones, including insulin, work rapidly to regulate the flow of glucose to and from the blood to keep it at a steady level. Insulin also allows the muscles to get the glucose they need from the blood supply. Fructose is metabolized by the liver, where it is converted into energy sources for the body through a process that does not require insulin.
  • Do sugars fit into a healthful eating pattern?
    A healthful eating pattern includes all five food groups: Dairy, fruits, grains, protein foods like meats and legumes, and vegetables. Some foods in these groups naturally contain sugars, such as fruits, vegetables and cow’s milk, which are sources of important nutrients like calcium, dietary fiber and potassium that many Americans don’t get enough of. Other foods in a healthful eating pattern may contain added sugars; examples include breads, alternative dairy beverages, and fruit canned in syrup. In sum, a healthy eating pattern can include both naturally occurring and added sugars. While there is no formal recommendation for how much naturally occurring sugar to consume, there is a recommendation for added sugars. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting our intake of added sugars to less than 10% of our total calories consumed per day. This amounts to less than 200 calories, or 50 grams, of added sugars in a 2,000-calorie daily diet.
  • Do sugars causes chronic diseases such as diabetes, weight gain and tooth decay?
    Diabetes is a complicated, chronic disease that affects the way the body regulates blood glucose levels. People with diabetes either do not make enough insulin in their bodies or cannot use the insulin their bodies do make. Insulin is needed for the body to keep glucose levels in the body’s blood supply steady and to allow the muscles to get the glucose they need from the blood. Diabetes presents itself in various forms, including type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. About 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes can make insulin, but their body does not use it effectively, which leads to higher-than-normal blood glucose levels. Experts do not know the exact cause of diabetes, but they do know that it is not caused by consuming sugars. Many factors contribute to developing type 2 diabetes, some of which you can attempt to modify—like your weight status and level of physical activity—and others that you cannot change—like your age and genes. No one source of calories causes weight gain. The predominant view among nutrition scientists is that weight gain occurs when we regularly consume more calories than we use. Excess calories may come from sugars, or any food, beverage, or nutrient that provides calories. Tooth decay is the result of many factors, including heredity causes and the make-up and flow of a person’s saliva. Sugars and other carbohydrates, such as starchy foods, also play a part. Bacteria on the teeth (also known as dental plaque) feed on carbohydrates and make acids that weaken tooth enamel and contribute to cavity formation. In addition to what we eat, the frequency of our eating also matters when it comes to dental health. Frequently eating snacks that contain sugar and carbohydrates, especially those that stick to the teeth, may increase your chances of tooth decay. Proper oral hygiene that includes brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste can help reduce your risk of tooth decay.
  • Raw sugar is healthier than table sugar
    Your body handles sugar the same way, there is no difference. Sugar has only 15 calories per teaspoon.
  • Sugar is a highly glycaemic food
    Sugar has moderate impact on blood glucose, similar to that of wheat bread. The GI of sugar is 65, falling in the moderate GI range of 56 to 69.
  • Sugar is addictive
    All that science tells us is that sugar tastes good and people like eating food that tastes good. Eating something you enjoy increases the dopamine in the way that all pleasurable experiences do but that is not addiction.
  • Sugar is toxic
    Sugar is an abundant carbohydrate that is produced is plants and is made up of units of glucose and units of fructose. Glucose is found in all plant foods and fructose is found abundantly in fruits. Sugar is a sweet energy source especially when enjoyed in moderation.

Check your facts about Sugar


Source:  Kris Sollid, RD, (2022), "Questions and Answers About Sugars", published by Food Insight. Retrieved from: on 01-08-2022

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