SUGAR. Evil or okay? Is it making me fat?
Seems like everyone is talking about sugar these days. Doesn't matter what class, income or religion. I even heard that in one zoo there were reducing the amount of bananas for monkeys as they were getting diabetes!
One of the down sides of the internet I think you'll agree is now everyone is an expert on, well; everything.
Spend 10mins in a coffee shop, gym or pound shop and I'm sure you'll hear the following?
"Just cut out sugar and you'll be fine" (as about as helpful as Prince Phillip explaining street slang)
"Sugar causes inflammation" (ask them what inflammation is and they'll be using google quicker than a Peregrine falcon falling from the sky)
SO mis amigos. I'm here to keep it 100 and bring you the truth and what science says.
Before I start though please allow me to quote Precision Nutrition 'Almost all of us are emotionally invested in our position on sugar'
and that's partly why it's a topic as controversial as NWA in the 80's.
So what is sugar exactly?
The sugar you're probably thinking of and the really white stuff you might put on your cornflakes is sucrose, a combo of glucose and fructose.
But there are also a few other types of sugar.
maltose (which is glucose + glucose)
lactose (galactose + glucose, found in dairy)
Sugars are as you may know carbohydrates. Yes that thing that has also been demonised. But not all carbohydrates are sugars.
Carbs are split into 3 other things as well as sugar
Starches (potatoes etc)
Fibre (husks for example)
structural building blocks (cellulose)
You might have heard on cereal adverts complexed carbs are digested slower and simpler carbs faster which is true and that's why oats or boiled potatoes make you feel fuller compared to eating say marsh mallows.
But does sugar make us fat?
Unfortunately the obesity epidemic is VERY complexed and you can't just blame sugar as the only cause. In fact since 1999 sugar consumption has decreased while diabetes and obesity continue to rise.
So far, the research shows if calories and protein are kept the same the amount of sugar didn't really matter.
However, don't get it twisted this isn't an excuse to go and eat sugar with everything. That's not the message I want to convey. It just means you don't need to panic and completely ban it. Find a middle ground if you can.
A recent meta analysis (the result of a bunch of scientific studies) showed that 60-90% of type 2 diabetes is linked to weight gain not sugar consumption.
Basically a massive amount of evidence points towards the fact that the main causes of diabetes are
too much body fat
not enough physical activity
How much is okay?
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sugar to 10% of your intake. So if you eat 2000kcals that's 200kcals from sugar or 50g.
However we all respond to sugar differently and so it's very difficult to say an exact amount for each person. Typically people who are very active can 'handle' it better than sedentary folks who sit down all day.
With that said, we can see that sugar alone doesn't appear to be the main cause of chronic diseases but remember.
- It can make some people overeat
- It has little nutrition in it
- It is energy dense
- It's most likely eating too many calories is making you fatter not sugar itself
- Each person responds differently to sugar
- A lot of people are eating more sugar than they think
So what can I do?
It's not sexy and it sounds mega boring but HABITS AND BEHAVIOURS are what you need to focus on for health, longevity and to give you the best chance to avoid chronic diseases.
Sleep 7-9 hours
Eat protein and produce (veg and fruit etc) at each meal
Moderate alcohol intake
Nurture meaningful relationships
Find purpose in life
Do exercise you enjoy and be active 30mins a day
Drink coffee! No you don't have to but I love it.
Don't forget to check out my free E-Book 'Slim Behaviours' @bvoy.fitness
Strength & salud
Petro AE, et al. Fat, carbohydrate, and calories in the development of diabetes and obesity in the C57BL/6J mouse. Metabolism. 2004 Apr;53(4):454-7.
Naude CE, et al. Low carbohydrate versus isoenergetic balanced diets for reducing weight and cardiovascular risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 9;9(7):e100652.
Johnston BC, et al. Comparison of weight loss among named diet programs in overweight and obese adults: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2014 Sep 3;312(9):923-33.
Anderson JW, Kendall CW, Jenkins DJ. Importance of weight management in type 2 diabetes: review with meta-analysis of clinical studies. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003 Oct;22(5):331-9.