Digestion, Diabetes, General, Diets | January 30, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Sugar is toxic, claims paediatric endocrinologist expert Dr Robert Lustig. His 90-minutes YouTube video, titled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”, has been viewed by over 6 million people since being uploaded on in 2009. The anti-sugar sentiment was shared in Australia too, with best selling-books such as “Sweet Poison” by David Gillespie and “I Quit Sugar” by Sarah Wilson, and the Australian movie “That sugar film”.
Is sugar really that bad for us?
Sugar is a carbohydrate, found naturally in most plants, and often added to processed foods. The principal sugars that occur in foods are glucose and fructose, which bond together to form sucrose, the most common form of sugar added to foods.
Glucose is the body’s primary source of energy and is found in fruit, honey, sweet corn and root vegetables. It is not particularly sweet tasting compared to fructose and sucrose.
Fructose is the ‘fruit sugar’, found in fruit, maple syrup and honey. It is about 1.5 times sweeter than sucrose.
Sucrose is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
It is abundant in sugar cane, sugar beets, corn, and other plants, and when it is extracted and refined it makes what we know as table sugar or white sugar.
Glucose and fructose are metabolised differently in the body. The stomach and small intestines absorb the glucose and then release it into the bloodstream. Glucose enters the cells from the blood stream where it is metabolised to be used immediately for energy, or stored in our bodies to be used later. Fructose, on the other hand, is primarily delivered and metabolised in the liver, similar to alcohol.
Lustig argues that when fructose is consumed in excess, it is converted to fat by the liver. Some of the excess fats can build-up in the liver and around other internal organs, damage liver function and induce obesity, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
The World Health Organisation reports associations between consumption of free sugars, weight gain and dental caries. This includes sugars added to foods and beverages, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates (but not sugar in whole fruit).
The main culprits, according to existing evidence, are sugar-sweetened beverages. A meta-analysis of seventeen studies showed that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was associated with a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes.
Fructose from natural fruits is not associated with adverse effects like the added sugar in sweetened beverages and processed foods. The fibre and water found in whole fruit increase satiety and slows down digestion, which makes it less likely that you will overeat.
The recent guideline released by the World Health Organization (WHO), recommends reducing intake of free sugars to less than 10% (or about 50g daily) of total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories a day of sugar for women, and no more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day for men.
It appears that artificial sweeteners do not activate the food reward pathways in your brain in the same way as natural sweetener, the result is increased appetite. Furthermore, the sweet taste of artificial sweeteners encourage sugar cravings. Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may contribute to weight gain.
There are many causes for sugar cravings, emotional as well as physiological. Stress, hormonal fluctuations, and even yeast infections and food sensitivities have all been linked to sugar cravings. Studies in mice show that sugar activates food reward pathways in the brain, creating a feeling of satisfaction following ingesting sweet-tasting foods.
One of the secrets to reduce sugar cravings is to balance your blood sugar levels. Sharp rises in blood glucose after a meal high in refined carbohydrates and sugar trigger excessive insulin release (the hormone that transports glucose into the cells), leading to plummeting blood glucose levels.
High blood sugar over long periods of time eventually leads to insulin resistance, a condition where after a while the cells begin to resist so much insulin, so both insulin and glucose are at high levels in the blood.
Manage fluctuating blood sugar and reduce sugar cravings
Chromium. This mineral is used for improving blood sugar control, especially in people in people with pre-diabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and high blood sugar.
Magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important crucial role in blood sugar regulation. Higher magnesium intake is associated with lower reduced insulin resistance and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Gymnema. The ‘sugar destroyer’ herb, gymnema leaves have been used in India’s Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Gymnema contains substances that decrease the absorption of sugar in your body, and also increase the amount of insulin in the body.
Cinnamon. The cinnamon spice helps control blood sugar and reduces cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.
American ginseng. Also known as Panax quinquefolis, was found to lower blood sugar after a meal in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin D. deficiency of this vitamin is associated with higher risks of developing type 2 diabetes. Supplementing with vitamin D may improve insulin sensitivity.
Alpha-lipoic acid. Some studies show that this antioxidant can decrease blood sugar after eating.
Numerous studies confirm that excess refined sugar is linked to a long list of health problems, but there is no evidence to suggest that refined sugar in small amounts is harmful to your health. Nonetheless, sugar is not a replacement for real food. Added refined sugars like sucrose, fructose and glucose are essentially “empty calories” lacking any nutrients.
Have a look at the amount of sugar you take in, and reduce the amount and frequency of your dietary exposure to sugar. Enjoy whole fruit, and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and artificial sweeteners.
American Heart Association 2016, Added Sugars Add to Your Risk of Dying from Heart Disease, AHA, retrieved 27 January 27 2017,
Basaranoglu, M., Basaranoglu, G., & Bugianesi, E. (2015). Carbohydrate intake and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: fructose as a weapon of mass destruction. Hepatobiliary Surgery and Nutrition, 4(2), 109–16.
Brand-Miller, J. & Barclay, A., (2016), Fructose, The Australian Paradox, retrieved 27 January 2017,
Ha, V., Cozma, A., & Choo, V. (2015). Do fructose-containing sugars lead to adverse health consequences? Results of recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, vol: 6 (4) pp: 504S-511S
Imamura, F., O’Connor, L., Ye, Z., et al. (2015). Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction. BMJ, 351.
Linus Pauling Institute 2014, Chromium, Oregon State University, retrieved 28 January 27 2017,
Linus Pauling Institute 2012, Lipoic Acid, Oregon State University, retrieved 28 January 27 2017,
Linus Pauling Institute 2014, Magnesium, Oregon State University, retrieved 28 January 27 2017,
Linus Pauling Institute 2014, Vitamin D, Oregon State University, retrieved 28 January 27 2017,
Tiwari, P., Mishra, B. N., & Sangwan, N. S. (2014). Phytochemical and pharmacological properties of Gymnema sylvestre: an important medicinal plant. BioMed Research International, 2014, 830285.
World health Organization 2015, Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children, WHO, retrieved 27 January 27 2017 < http://apps.who.int>
Yang, Q. (2010). Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 83(2), 101–108.