Sugar – can everyone calm down please?

Tom Blackett   |  01/12/2015

Sugar is probably the most unfairly demonised thing ever – and it actually really annoys me.  For years it’s been blamed as THE main causes of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the developed world which quite frankly isn’t fair!  You know what the main cause is? It is people who can’t control their urges to binge eat excessive quantities of sugary foods, not sugar itself.  Let me remind you that all things will kill you if you over-consume them, not just sugar.  Jamie Oliver is campaigning right now for a sugar tax which makes my blood boil, why should I be hindered with a tax because others can’t control their urges to overeat and are too lazy to exercise?

Before I bore you with my emotional ranting lets actually take a look at what sugar is and how the body responds to it…

In the simplest terms there are 3 types of sugar and these are:

  1. Glucose – this is the bodies preferred energy source because all tissues have the chemical machinery to break down glucose and use it for energy production.  It is produced as a result of the body processing most types of carbohydrate; and through the release of insulin can either be used immediately for energy, or be stored in muscle cells and/or the liver as glycogen for later use.  However, if over-consumed it will be converted to fat.
  2. Fructose – this is found in many fruits and vegetables and often added to fizzy drinks and sweets.  Like glucose, it provides a quick energy source however is more lipogenic, or fat-producing, as it does not stimulate the production of insulin and leptin (a key hormone for regulating energy intake and expenditure) and few tissues can process it.  Fructose is therefore most commonly blamed for weight gain and obesity and consequently if over-consumed will be converted to fat.
  3. Sucrose – This is essentially a chemical combination of fructose and glucose.  The body responds by splitting it into glucose and fructose through something boring and complex known as enzymatic digestion….Once this process is complete the body has both glucose and fructose to play with.. and subsequently if over-consumed it will be converted to fat.

So how much sugar (glucose, fructose or sucrose) can we take before it starts making us fat and putting our health at risk?  Well it simply depends on the person whose doing the eating.  If that individual is sporty and/or active then sugar (any type), as discussed can provide a quick source of energy and help replenish glycogen stored in the muscles/liver, and thus have a beneficial effect by improving mental focus and physical performance.  However if that individual is sedentary then yep.. you’ve guessed it, the sugar will convert to fat instead.  If that sedentary person then continues to eat sugar and gets progressively overweight then the chances of heart disease and diabetes etc is increased.  It’s not rocket science.

So whats the conclusion? Well figure out your BMR and eat sugar responsibly, eating the occasional chocolate bar is NOT bad for you and may even help you in some circumstances.  Brush your teeth before bed and do some exercise.

Good luck everyone!