Do you really need to cut out Sugar from your diet to be healthy?

I once knew a girl named Sucrose.

Sucrose was pretty and funny. Being around her, you felt like anything was possible. When she walked into a room, she filled it with a feeling of light and joy. Everybody felt that she was like them, but different, lighter; sweeter in a way.

She looked something like this.

But that was before.

That was when Sucrose was popular.

You see, while she used to be everybody’s favourite, these days things are quite different.

Nobody likes Sucrose anymore. People say that she is bad to be around and that she tricks you with her sweetness. People say she is built differently than the rest. But the thing is, she never understood why. Why were people treating her this way? Were they not all the same? She hadn’t changed. She was still the same girl, one part glucose and one part fructose.

Most people see recommendations to cut sugar and think:

  1. Smart people say I should eat less sugar to loose weight.
  2. Sugar must be making me fat.

The problem is that 1 is right, while 2 is inherently wrong. As in the words of a meta-analysis by Erickson and Slavin from 2015:

However, there is no evidence suggesting that excess calories from added sugars specifically are worse than excess calories from any other food source.

You can eat sugary foods and still be fitter than a motherfucker.

You see, that white stuff everyone keeps comparing to cocaine, table sugar (or Sucrose) is a disaccharide, a fancy word meaning that it is a sugar formed by two simpler sugars (called monosaccharides.) Those two simple sugars are glucose and fructose.[1]

Of those, glucose is literally in your blood. Nobody has a problem with it.

Fructose is on the other hand to where everybody’s fingers are pointing.

That makes sense, since there actually exists evidence for fructose being more fattening calorie per calorie than other carbohydrates (gasp!)

But, there’s a catch.

For it to be so, you have to consume it:

  1. In isolated form, or at least without consuming any fiber.[2]
  2. In an amount that exceeds 100 g (which is, like, a lot.)[3]

So, even if the fructose in sugar is inherently fattening (a claim for which there exists no evidence, as it’s not isolated) you’ll have to consume more than 200 grams of pure sugar for that effect to take hold.

Unless you pour boatloads of sugar straight out of the bag and into your mouth, that isn’t a practical worry.

Now that we have established that sugar isn’t fattening in itself, why then is it recommended to cut down one’s intake of it?

We shouldn’t strive to eat less sugar because it is bad by any means – healthy humans tolerate sugar just fine.[4] The point health professionals are trying to get at is that you should eat a sufficient amount of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fiber in a given day. This usually leaves us with two options:

  1. Eat enough food containing those healthy things and eat a lot of sugar on top of that.
  2. Eat enough food containing those healthy things and cut down on our intake of sugar.

Doing option 1, without getting obese in the process, is impossible for most people (athletes are an exception, as everyone familiar with Michael Phelps diet will know.)[5]

That leaves option 2.

A healthy diet is one were we consume food containing enough of the nutrients that we need. If your caloric demands allow you to sprinkle some sugar on top of that, no harm will come to you. Having a high sugar intake is a marker of an unhealthy diet, not because sugar is bad, but because it’s an indicator that you’re either consuming too many calories or not enough nutritious food.

Or in other words, most people eating a lot of sugar are unhealthy, but eating a lot of sugar won’t by itself make you any less healthy.

Sugar is after all simply glucose and fructose.

In normal circumstances for healthy people, it isn’t fattening, unhealthy or bad in any way.

Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too.

So yeah, eat your vegetables.

 

 

Guest Article by Chris Vargel

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