Everything you need to know about sugar

Sweet and high-fat foods are a very young invention in the evolution of mankind. Our body has not yet had time to adapt to such foods. And physiologically, fats and fast carbohydrates are the most energy-efficient resources. Fats – due to their high-calorie content and sugar – due to rapid absorption.

The brain and all of our physiology strongly encourage the use of these products, and all the serotonin-dopamine systems rejoice after each piece of cake.

But the ability to assimilate and process them adequately has not yet had time to develop. That is to say, everything, of course, is assimilated and processed, then postponed until difficult times, which, let’s be optimistic, never come.

On the other hand, everyone has a friend who eats chocolates, while feeling great and barely falling within the lower limit of normal for BMI.

Everything you need to know about sugar

What is sugar?

Usually by the name “sugar” we mean sucrose, the molecule of which consists of the combined molecules of fructose and glucose. In the intestines, this large molecule is broken down into its constituent parts, which are then included in the metabolism with the participation of various hormones and enzymes.

Everything you need to know about sugar

Glucose can be used as it is, penetrating inside the cells thanks to the hormone insulin.

Fructose needs a number of transformations that occur under the action of enzymes in the liver (the main one is fructokinase) and end with the formation of the same glucose and glycogen.

In humans, a significant part of the fructose resulting from the breakdown of sucrose (sugar) is transformed into glucose directly in the intestinal walls. Fructose stimulates the formation of triglycerides in the liver, increasing their content in the blood and contributing to their deposition in the vessels – atherosclerosis.

Everything you need to know about sugar

A little history

Decades of trade wars between different food industries – producers of sugar, fats and oils, dairy products, meat – have led to a large number of “revelations”, “correct diets”, “harmful” products and highly publicized “healthy”. So there were articles like this, with wide public coverage, and movies like “Sugar”, telling the terrible consequences of having that same sugar in the diet.

Everything you need to know about sugar

Of course, sugar producers are far from angels and have made many missteps, essentially sponsoring research that is useful to them and hiding results or not completing those that contain data they don’t like.

Various nutritionists and “experts” also do not miss the opportunity to get their share of popularity on the wave of hype and promote low-carb, low-fat and other diets.

Although a study of mortality in older adults on a high-sugar, high-fat diet and just a varied diet showed that fat and sugar increase mortality for a variety of reasons, but not significantly. But just a full and varied diet – nothing increases.

Everything you need to know about sugar

On the other hand, the problem of excess sugar in the diet is there. According to 2017 data, in Europe, sugar provided 15-21% of daily calories in adults and 16-26% in children. This is with the recommended, for example, in Great Britain 5%. Adding to the complexity of the situation, only half of the sugar comes from sweets, the rest being from drinks, dairy products, etc.

White death?

So what’s so scary about sugar? Briefly on the points:

Overweight. Everything is simple here. Sugar is a simple and affordable calorie, physiologically and psychologically perceived positively by the body. Often also cheap. Which is very easy to sort out well beyond the recommended daily allowances. However, all is not so clear. Here it is shown that even with adherence to caloric standards, excessive sugar consumption leads to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Everything you need to know about sugar

Depression and other mental disorders. Excess consumption of sugary foods and drinks has been shown to increase the risk of these diseases, particularly in men (but less in women).

Hypertonic disease. According to this study, excessive consumption of sugar (along with salt) is one of the factors that increase blood pressure.

Decay. Another logical warning comes from dentists. Excess sugar in the diet contributes to the development of caries. Mom was right when she said candy knocks out teeth. As an alternative, dentists advise a varied and nutritious diet.

Everything you need to know about sugar

pregnancy and sugar This is also not the best combination. Excessive consumption of sugar during this period leads to a high risk of pregnancy complications and diabetes in both mother and child – high birth weight and a high likelihood of sugar addiction in the future.

Most of these effects are due to the rapid rise in blood sugar after consumption of refined sugars. The increase in glucose levels stimulates the rapid release of insulin, which allows glucose to move quickly from the blood to the cells.

As a result, 40-60 minutes after the cake, our blood sugar is low again and we don’t mind eating. But in fact, at this time the cells have enough glucose to cover their needs, so the next snack will go to fat.

And with regular releases of large amounts of insulin, the sensitivity of cells to it decreases – and we get type 2 diabetes and all related problems (atherosclerosis, obesity, psychological problems).

Everything you need to know about sugar

Yes, before the development of clinical diabetes, we have many years, even decades of uncontrolled sugar consumption – but then you won’t be able to eat cake at all, for the rest of your life. Maybe better less often and little by little, but all my life?

What about the benefits?

Of course, she is too. Sugar, like all fast carbohydrates, is an excellent and affordable source of energy, ideal if you need to fill its deficiency quickly, for example during competitions.

Everything you need to know about sugar

Glucose is well absorbed by neurons and scientists confirm that eating glucose improves attention, precision, stimulates thinking and reduces errors. The placebo effect doesn’t even work here – sugar-free sugary drinks don’t affect mental abilities in any way.

As in the mortality study above, it shows that increasing sugar consumption in the elderly reduces the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease, although it leads to excess weight.

Everything you need to know about sugar

Is there a sugar addiction?

Sugar activates the pleasure center in the brain, and humans are not alone in this. Cocaine-dependent rats choose sugar between a solution of cocaine and sugar. But in many animals there is no connection between sugar and pleasure – for example, in cats, some fish, fur seals, whales, chickens.

According to the WHO, the following symptoms are necessary for addiction:

  • importance in the life of an addict
  • change in mood (“high”)
  • resistance (need to increase the dose)
  • withdrawal syndrome
  • conflicts with the environment
  • relapses

Of these, those with a sweet tooth only have an improvement in mood after eating sweets.

You are unlikely to commit theft for the money you can buy a pie.

If you ate a pie today, tomorrow you don’t need to eat two for the same sensations.

A day without cookies won’t make you vomit, hurt your joints or raise your blood pressure.

You can argue with your friends about who gets the last piece of the pie, but believe me, that’s not what addicts mean by conflict with the environment.

Finally, if you eat a pie after a sweet break, you will not necessarily start eating kilos of sweets every day. On the contrary, you will certainly not break.

Everything you need to know about sugar

Therefore, sweets are far from addictive. It’s a habit. Which brings a lot of positive emotions and therefore is very persistent.

But it’s just a habit. You can put less sugar in tea or coffee: just reduce the usual amount by a few grams every few days – and it will gradually turn out that tea without sugar is much tastier, especially good. Eat one piece of chocolate less, instead of 10 pieces – 9. And after a couple of months it turns out that one piece is enough. It wouldn’t work with heroin.

Added sugar

You can completely eliminate sweets from your diet, but still consume large amounts of sugar.

For example, 100 grams of ketchup can contain up to 20 grams of sugar. Many sauces, juices, drinks, marinades, pastries, even unsweetened at first glance, contain a lot of it.

Everything you need to know about sugar

In the United States and the United Kingdom there are special programs to combat added sugar (United States, Great Britain). They study the taste perception of products with different sugar content, trying to minimize it.

For example, it turned out that if you reduce the amount of sugar in juices by 20%, it will not affect the taste. In addition, these countries have introduced a separate tax on sugar in products, limit the sale of sugary foods and drinks to children, reduce portions in restaurants and use social advertising.

Everything you need to know about sugar

Meanwhile, all these restrictions have not reached us – we will read what they write on food packaging (except for sugar itself, glucose, fructose or corn syrup are often used). It could be interesting.

A few words about sweeteners

If sugar is bad, can anything replace it? Among the most popular alternatives are fructose, especially in the form of syrups (maple, corn) or honey, and synthetic sweeteners.

Fructose increases the risk of abdominal (internal) obesity, insulin resistance and the amount of triglycerides in the blood (which increases the risk of atherosclerosis). In general, this greatly increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Fructose cannot be recommended as a sugar substitute and should not be consumed unnecessarily (especially since we get a considerable amount of it from fruit).

Everything you need to know about sugar

Synthetic sweeteners, on the contrary, are mostly low-calorie and safe and can be used as part of a weight control program. Among the recommended are stevia, sucralose, acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, and saccharin. Of course, their consumption should also be treated consciously and not exceed the recommended amounts, but do not be afraid of horror stories about their harm.

So is it or isn’t it?

The old folk wisdom “Too much is unhealthy” works very well in the case of sugar. In small quantities, it is an ideal food for the brain, a source of good mood and a prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Excess – the cause of obesity, caries, depression and high blood pressure.

The boundary between “too much” and enough is defined as 5% (according to new data) or 10% of total calorie intake. With a daily intake of 2500 kcal, this corresponds to 125–250 kcal or 30–60 g of sugar.

A Snickers contains 55 grams of sugar. In a teaspoon of sugar – 5 g, in 100 g of banana – 12 g, in 100 g of apple – 10 g, in 100 g of watermelon – 5 g.

Everything you need to know about sugar

Yes, fruits are not only tasty but also harmful when abused.

On the other hand, due to the high fiber content of fruits, the sucrose they contain is not so quickly absorbed, and in terms of metabolic effect, they are closer to slow carbohydrates.

Likewise, if you choose sweets that are high in fiber, you can slightly smooth out the spike in glucose concentration and avoid harmful effects. But in any case, it should not be abused.

The good news for runners is that exercise helps reduce sugar cravings.

During running (or any other exercise), the dopaminergic system is activated, which weakens the vicious cycle of psychological reward for sweets, causing similar pleasurable sensations.

If you want another piece of chocolate, and it’s the third chocolate bar, make ten, it will distract you perfectly. We even counted (not too seriously) how much you have to run to “burn” the candy you eat.