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Tip of the Week
Once a week we will put an item from a reputable scientific source here.

In defense of sugar!

There are many types of sugars but I'll focus on the brown or white crystals that we add to our food – also known as table sugar or sucrose. Sugar has been demonised in the media and in society. It is blamed for hyperactivity in children, diabetes, obesity and dental caries. Sugar, in moderation, belongs in any nutritionally balanced diet.

Sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose – two sugars which occur naturally in many foods (e.g. honey, fruits and vegetables). Whether the sugar is natural or added, there is no biological difference – it is digested and metabolised in the body in the same way. In other words, the body cannot differentiate between sugar found in vegetables and that which is added to processed foods.

Carbohydrates (carbs), which include sugars and starches, provide the body's most important and readily available source of energy. Sugar is the most important fuel for the brain, for movement, digesting food, breathing – for everything we do! As with most carbohydrates, one gram of sugar provides only 4 calories (compared to one gram of fat which has 9 and one gram of alcohol that has 7 calories). Thus, by itself, sugar is not a high-calorie ingredient. So, why are you afraid of sugar? Perhaps your fear is rooted in some common myths.

1. Sugar causes weight gain. No matter the source of the calories (protein, carbohydrate, fat or alcohol), we will gain weight if we consistently take in more calories than what we use. The only way to avoid weight gain, if you donÝt want to cut back on food, is to burn even more calories (energy) – exercise like crazy! Do keep in mind that foods and beverages that are sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners are healthy options for diabetics and those who are concerned about their weight. Remember – always read the label – this will help you control your caloric intake.


1 Teaspoon of -

Provides the following
number of calories:

   Brown sugar (packed)


   ConfectionerÝs sugar


   Corn syrup


   Crystalline fructose


   High-fructose corn syrup




   Maple sugar




   Table sugar


2. Sugar causes diabetes. There is strong scientific evidence that sugar consumption is not associated with the development of type 2 diabetes. In fact, some studies show a negative association between sucrose intake and diabetes risk. Lifestyle and dietary risk factors that contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes include obesity (too much food in general), stress and inactivity (lack of exercise).

3. Sugar causes dental caries. The causes of dental caries (tooth decay) are complex:  nutritional status, oral hygiene, fluoride exposure, dietary habits, heredity, socioeconomic status, general health and use of medications. All carbohydrate foods have caries-promoting properties – sticky foods more so. Research has shown that regular tooth-brushing, with a fluoride toothpaste, may have a greater effect on caries than does restricting sweetened foods. The Institute of Medicine recently stated that, "it is not possible to determine an intake level of sugar at which increased risk of dental caries can occur." So brush, floss and rinse with a mouthwash (or saltwater)!

4. Sugar causes hyperactivity. The majority of scientific studies do not support the notion that sugar causes hyperactivity in children, or anyone else for that matter. Even when the experiments were carried out with children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, there were no differences between those who were fed sugar and those who were not. Some researchers reported a decrease in activity levels after intake of sugar. This may be tied to the connexion between carbohydrate consumption and enhanced brain levels of serotonin. [Serotonin is a brain chemical that has a calming effect]. It is also quite likely that very active children need more energy than their sedentary peers. Children have small stomachs thus they cannot eat large quantities of food. By eating more sugar they can meet their energy requirements.

Can sugar make the brain work better?

To reiterate – the brain gets its energy only from sugar. There is increasing evidence that sugar can boost brain function - from infants to the elderly, including non-diabetic people with dementia, Alzheimer's disease and Down's syndrome. This interesting area of research is still developing – stay tuned.

A word of caution: because a little is good, it does not mean that a lot is better. Enjoy your sugar – as I do - in moderation!


Stay tuned for Dr. San's "The only diet you'll ever need." .

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