5 Myths About Sugar

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“Some sugars are healthier”

Let’s take a look at Agave, maple syrup, organic raw sugar, and table sugar. On the glycemic index, which measures a carb’s impact on blood sugar, maple syrup hits 54—close to table sugar’s 65. Agave is lower, at 19, but it’s high in fructose, and fructose is tied to metabolic syndrome and hypertension. Research suggests that is responsible for most of the negative health effects of sugar. “Organic” simply means the sugar cane or sugar beets were grown without pesticides. “Raw” signifies that naturally occurring molasses has not been extracted—so raw sugar, while technically “less processed,” has the same nutrient profile as the regular kind as well as the same glycemic number.

“Sugar should be avoided at all costs”

Sugar should not be a major part of your diet, but you don’t have to cut it out completely. The USDA’s guidelines recommend that you get less than 10% of your calories from sugar. Unfortunately, this is an easy thing to accomplish since sugar can be hidden in many of our “non-sugary” food items. Foods like salad dressings, pasta, ketchup, barbecue sauces, peanut butter, and yogurt. Too much sugar can increase your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and possibly cancer. A 2017 study in Clinical Science showed that just three months on a high-sugar diet raised healthy people’s risk of heart disease. Instead of going cold turkey, take things slowly to wean your body from excessive added sugar. You’ll retrain your taste buds to be satisfied with less sweetness after a few weeks.

It’s a good idea to swap in juice for soda.

With the first sip of juice, your taste buds should reveal this myth. In fact, experts say no one should be drinking more than 8 oz. of juice daily. Ounce for ounce, fruit juice contains about the same amount of sugar as Mountain Dew. This is the standard for sugar gluttony of all the sodas. One can of Mountain Dew contains 46 grams of sugar. That is a ridiculous amount when you consider that the FDA recommends that people limit themselves to a maximum of 25 grams of sugar per day. A study in the British Medical Journal showed that all sugary drinks, including 100% fruit juice, significantly increased the risk of cancer.

Eating too much sugar gives you diabetes.

Sugar does not cause either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Sugar may affect the management of diabetes. Excess sugar intake will exacerbate the symptoms and make control difficult. Sugar encourages overeating and obesity is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In other words, a diet high in calories from any source—not just sugar—contributes to weight gain, which increases your chances of metabolic dysfunction and Type 2 diabetes. This form of the disease accounts for about 90% of the 463 million adult cases worldwide in 2019, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body mistakenly destroys its own insulin-producing cells. Someone with this form of diabetes needs to work closely with a physician to manage their medications and make the lifestyle changes needed to regulate blood sugar levels (one of which may be eating less sugar).

A big, sweet treat means a major sugar rush.

In fact, the opposite seems to be true: A 2019 review by researchers at Humboldt University in Germany found that rather than providing a quick boost, sugar made people more lethargic and less focused in the hour after they ate it. “The myth of the ‘sugar rush’ can be traced to studies suggesting that consumption of carbohydrates could make children hyperactive, an idea that has been debunked many times,” explains Konstantinos Mantantzis, a postdoctoral research fellow at Humboldt. In other words, if your kid seems wound up post-party, it’s probably the excitement—not the birthday cake—that is to blame.