What is Wrong with Sugar?
January 21, 2014
By Marita Tillerás
What is Wrong with Sugar?
The sugar debate is ongoing. Should we eat sugar? When should we eat it? What type of sugar should we consume?

Most people would agree that a diet containing an excessive amount of sugar will result in weight gain, but do we know why?

Sugar is Addictive

Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease, explains that sugar is an addictive substance. Fructose, which is commonly found in artificial and processed food, lights up the reward centre of the human brain on MRI scans.

However, upon repeated exposure to fructose, the reward centre lights up less and less, which means you crave more to achieve the same effect. In fact, fructose has similar effects on the reward centre to those of alcohol, tobacco, nicotine and heroin, and can thus implement a "vicious cycle" of consumption and disease.

Is Fructose in Fruit Bad?

People often link fructose and fruit together, and therefore think that limiting their sugar intake also means limiting the amount of fruit eaten. I once overheard a girl giving her friend advice to only have half a slice of fruit each day to avoid eating too much sugar.

Unless you eat 20 oranges a day, your fruit intake should not be a worry. The magical amount of fibre that fruit contains makes it harder for the body to absorb the small amounts of fructose that can be found in fruit. Large amounts of fructose such as artificial or extracted fructose can, however, lead to an overload on the liver as it consumes and digests the fructose at once.

Some Savoury Foods are Packed with Sugar Too

Most people are aware of the fact that candy and cakes are packed with sugar, unfortunately this is also true for a big chunk of the processed food a lot of people consume daily. Did you, for instance, know that the buns at McDonalds are imported as confectionary due to the high content of sugar?

Lustig claims that sugars added to processed food are causing metabolic syndrome and numerous conditions often occurring together to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and carrying too much fat around the abdomen.

ABC Health and Wellbeing suggests to consume little or nothing of:
  • sugar-laden breakfast cereals, containing up to 30% sugar (breakfast cereal review here). Despite claiming to have enough fibre to get you through the day, they contain the wrong fibre that is full of phytates – substances that bind essential minerals and take them out of the body, and thereby steal your much needed minerals.
  • premade meals and sauces (yes that includes your baked beans and canned soup).
  • 'health foods' such as muesli bars and some snacks found in the health food section.
  • spreads including jams, sugar-free fruit spreads, and even peanut butter.
Limit Your Sugar Intake

We should all attempt limiting our sugar intake. It is arguable that people are more addicted to sugar than what they are aware of.

Instead of eating sweets or processed foods, reach for a piece of fruit when the sugar cravings arrive, and you will do your body a huge favour.

Avoiding sugar will also lead to a larger consumption of whole foods, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, which is exactly what your body needs to keep your energy levels up!

Marita Tilleras is a Norwegian third year media student at La Trobe University, a personal trainer at Goodlife Preston and a passionate health blogger. She is a health and fitness fanatic, and can be found in the gym most days, unless it is beach weather. You can read Marita's blog at cherishyourbody.wordpress.com and contact her at mtilleras@gmail.com.
"People are more addicted to sugar than what they realise. Instead of eating sweets or processed foods, reach for a piece of fruit when the sugar cravings hit and do your body a huge favour."