Is sugar really that bad for you?

By our PCYC Goondiwindi Gym+Fitness Team

Is sugar really bad for you?  Is it addictive?  How much is too much?  Are there different types of sugar?  In this article we aim to answer all your questions and bust all the myths surrounding the great sugar debate!

What is sugar?

In a nutshell sugar is simple carbohydrate.  Carbohydrates along with Protein and Fat are Macronutrients that provide your body with energy.  Our bodies need varying amounts of each macronutrient to function.  Sugar comes in many forms – fructose, glucose, sucrose, lactose, and they all have a different effect on the body and brain.

“Sugar is sugar, no matter how processed, fancy or popular it is”
– Tara Leong, ‘The Nutrition Guru and the Chef’

Sugar can be found in many natural and processed foods.  Dairy products, vegetables, soy products and of course natures natural lolly – fruit.  Fruits and vegetables contain many more necessary micronutrients and should be included in a healthy well-balanced diet. Processed sugar is often used as a flavour enhancer and preservative in packaged foods. ie Lollies, soft drinks, cakes and pastries fruit juice and condiments … the list goes on!

Daily sugar intake

Food Standards Australia recommends for an adult of a healthy body mass index to consume no more then 50g or 12 teaspoons of free sugar per day. Free sugar includes all sugars defined as added sugars and the sugar component of honey, fruit juice and fruit juice concentrates. You may find it interesting to track your sugar over the course of a week. Make note of the sugar content on all labels – cereals, pasta sauces, spreads as well as drinks and sugar added to teas and coffees. You might be surprised! A study from the Sugar Nutrition Resource Centre shows that in 2011-12, Australians consumed an average of 60 grams of free sugars per day (equivalent to 14 teaspoons of white sugar). The majority of free sugar intakes comes from added sugars with an average 52 grams (or 12 teaspoons), with 7 grams of free sugars coming from honey and fruit juice. One 375ml can of soft drink contains over 44grams of sugar!

Is sugar addictive?

Sugar addiction has been the subject of many books, diets, and studies over the last few years, but is it really addictive? One study done on animals showed similar effects of bingeing and withdrawal behaviour similar to drug abuse. (Colantuoni et al., 2001/2002) The reviewed evidence supports the theory that in certain people, often obese and/or bulimic, sugar can lead to behaviour and neurochemical changes that resemble the effects of a substance of abuse. In a well balanced diet, there is no evidence of sugar dependence. (Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews)

Can sugar cause diseases?

Does sugar cause disease? Well not directly…it’s the amount of sugar consumed that has an adverse effect on the body. Excess sugar can lead to several health complications – obesity, metabolic syndrome and inflammatory diseases just to name a few. Different types of sugars have different effects on the body and brain.

“The body does not respond the same way to fructose in fruit as to added fructose. As an added sugar, fructose is particularly implicated in metabolic syndrome, hypertension, insulin resistance, lipogenesis, diabetes and associated retinopathy, kidney disease and inflammation.” (Impact of sugar on the body, brain and behaviour. Frontiers in bioscience)

So, is sugar that bad for you?

The answer to the BIG question is NO and YES.

NO – If we are consuming the right amount of sugar for our daily intake from natural sugars with the occasional treat, we can sustain a health body and mind.
YES – If consuming excessive amounts of sugars above the recommended daily intake from processed and added sugar foods and drinks, we can develop poor health and disease.

“All in all, moderation is key when it comes to sugar”
– Tammy Bell, PCYC Goondiwindi