The topic of sugar will always be seen as a headline on popular media websites. You’ll even see it in taglines of many diet books. There certainly is no shortage of blogs dedicated to sugar information out there these days.
Sugar has actually been a topic of interest for the entire health industry and mainstream media over the last six decades or so. Over that time span, a lot has been revealed about the way sugar impacts the body.
The following article serves to clarify several misconceptions about sugar. The answers are based on evidence, not hyperbole. By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll be well educated about sugar, its benefits, and its negative aspects.
Sugar: What Is It?
Before we start talking about the negative effects that come with sugar, let’s first understand precisely what it is. Sugar is defined as: “any of the class of soluble, crystalline, typically sweet-tasting carbohydrates found in living tissues and exemplified by glucose and sucrose.”
This definition categorizes several different kinds of carbohydrates. Worse, it doesn’t clarify what sugar is and isn’t. As such, we will simplify things by saying that sucrose is a common name for table sugar.
The sugar known as sucrose is made up of a couple of different molecules – fructose and glucose. The various sugar types that are found in the foods we eat are mostly made up of these molecules, but in differing ratios.
For instance, sucrose (a.k.a. table sugar) is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. By comparison, high fructose corn syrup contains 45% glucose and 55% fructose.
Sugar’s Health Effects
To clarify things even further, this topic will be broken down into a couple of different categories:
- Sugar’s role in weight gain, as well as its significance.
- The direct impact of sugar on your health.
Does Sugar Make You Gain Weight?
A lot has been said and argued about whether sugar has any effect on weight gain.
Based on 60 years’ worth of research, we can conclude that sugar does contribute to an increase of weight. With that said, sugar isn’t necessarily a “fattening” type of food.
Sugar Stimulates Caloric Intake
As far as weight gain goes, a surplus of calories consumed directly contributes to weight gain.
The average amount of daily calories taken in between the years of 1971 and 2006 increased by approximately 300 cal in the USA. Most of these calories came from added fats and sugars.
This indicates that sugar might indeed play some kind of role when it comes to weight gain since it increases caloric intake totals.
Because extra sugar is added to foods in order to make them more pleasant to eat, people will end up consuming food with high-calorie content. They’re more inclined to eat more of it because of its pleasant taste.
This inherent caloric increase can usually result in an increase of fat if such calories aren’t moderately consumed.
When people eat food that contains extra sugar, they end up consuming more calories. With that said, when people eat sugar on its own, they actually don’t take in very much of the substance.
A study conducted in 1940 by Johns Hopkins University’s Richter and Campbell revealed that when rodents were provided access to raw, pure sugar isolated from its usual source of food, rodents ended up consuming the exact quantity of calories than they did whatever zero sugar was present. The findings revealed that the integration of food with sugar resulted in a consumption of more calories.
We now understand that the addition of sugar to our food can result in increased calorie consumption (and, therefore, weight gain). This begs the question – what kind of fattening effects does sugar have?
By Itself, Sugar Isn’t Fattening
As it stands right now, sugar on its own isn’t inherently fattening, as proven by countless studies.
For instance, one report involved people who were fed diets high in sugar (43% of the total calories they were fed each day contained sugar). These individuals were subjected to calorie deficits. Over the course of six weeks, they ended up losing weight.
Another study involved people that were administered a liquid drink high in sugar as a diet. These individuals lost a significant amount of weight.
In fact, one participant ended up losing more than 200 lbs.! Participants in the study weren’t eating as many calories as they usually did because the taste of the drink they were given each day wasn’t terribly tasty.
Here is the correlation between weight gain and sugar: when sugar is added to food, people’s caloric intake totals increase, which subsequently results in weight gain.
With that said, sugar on its own isn’t necessarily fattening. By consuming the same quantity of food that contain varying degrees of sugar, no significant weight loss or gain differences will be apparent.
As Far As Health Is Concerned, What Makes Weight Gain So Detrimental?
Why are we concerned about the ways sugar might affect weight gain? Weight loss and gain can greatly affect your health, believe it or not.
A risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer go up when your body fat and weight increase.
For instance, if you are underweight, your risk of developing diabetes over the course of your life goes up by 7.6%. If you are overweight, your risk increases to 70.3%.
Further, the risk of developing cardiovascular issues over the course of your life will go up by 21% if you are overweight. If you are obese, the risks jump up to 67%. Both figures are based on comparisons to individuals with a reasonably healthy weight.
Weight gain can stimulate all sorts of health risks. Weight gain cannot be completely blamed on sugar, though. Weight gain mostly comes about from a surplus of calories consumed over a specific time frame.
With that said, while your intake of sugar can be an aspect of a bigger picture, a surplus of calories taken in each day will ultimately result in weight gain.