The truth about sugar

We bust a few common myths and reveal some surprising facts about sugar.

Often we’re led to believe that anything that tastes a bit too good isn’t healthy and leads to weight gain. So, when it comes to sugar, the sweetest treat of all, we believe it’s best to cut it out altogether. Yet such a strategy is ill-advised.

According to the South African Sugar Association, studies have shown that people wanting to lose weight find it easier to follow a meal plan that contains sugar than a meal plan that does not. This needs to be balanced with your total calorie intake, of course. The association advises speaking to your doctor or a registered dietitian to help you create an eating plan that suits your lifestyle.

What’s more, there’s no single food item that makes us fat. The cause of weight gain is consuming more energy than your body needs to function effectively. When you eat more food than your body needs, the extra energy is stored as fat.

Sugar facts
There’s so much hype surrounding sugar and health that it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction. We reveal some enlightening facts about sugar:

  • Sugar is a carbohydrate present in fruit, vegetables, sugar cane and sugar beet plants
  • Sugar is pure, with no additives or preservatives. It is difficult to replace sugar in food production and it can’t be replaced with anything that’s pure.
  • Sugar aids in the manufacturing processes for things like yoghurt, bread, vinegar, sour cream, wine, beer, and cheese.
  • Sugar is a source of energy and contains four calories per gram.
  • Our bodies convert sugar into fuel quickly, unlike fats that are stored to be used later.
  • The first taste we experience, in the form of breastmilk, is sweet because of the sugar lactose it contains.
  • The sugar found in your sugar bowl is known as table sugar, and in South Africa is extracted from sugar cane.
  • The scientific term for sugar is sucrose. Sucrose is made up of glucose and fructose, which are also found in fruit and vegetables.
  • When we eat sugar, the body separates the glucose and fructose, which are absorbed into the blood stream. The fructose is transported to the liver and converted into glucose. Our body uses the glucose for energy in the same way as glucose found in all carbohydrate foods such as bread and potatoes is used
  • There’s a popularly held belief that brown sugar is healthier than white. However, nutritionally speaking, there’s not much to distinguish them.

To uncover more facts and scientific information about sugar, visit:

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  1. Bolton-Smith, C. & Woodward, M. (1994) Dietary composition and fat to sugar ratios in relation to obesity. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord, 18, 820-8.
  2. Gibson, S. (2010) Trends in energy and sugar intakes and body mass index between 1983 and 1997 among children in Great Britain. J Hum Nutr Diet, 23, 371-81.
  3. Gibson, S. A. (2007) Are diets high in non-milk extrinsic sugars conducive to obesity? An analysis from the Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults. J Hum Nutr Diet, 20, 229-38.
  4. Hill, J. O. & Prentice, A. M. (1995) Sugar and body weight regulation. Am J Clin Nutr, 62, 264S-273S; discussion 273S-274S.

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