All about sugar: Is it actually as bad as we’re made to believe?

All about sugar: Is it actually as bad as we’re made to believe?

Over the centuries, this crystalline sweetener has invaded everyone’s snacks, drinks, guts, and

minds. It has caused its fair share of controversy, too. Although everyone is familiar with sugar as a concept, we’ll start with a brief explainer.

What is sugar?

Sugar is a soluble carbohydrate — a biological molecule consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Other carbohydrates include starch and cellulose, which is a structural components of plant cell walls. Simple sugars, or monosaccharides, include glucose an

d fructose. Granulated sugar is a compound sugar, or disaccharide, known as sucrose, which consists of glucose and fructose. During digestion, the body breaks down disaccharides into monosaccharides.

Still, the chemistry of sugar does not explain its infamy. The substance gained its dastardly

reputation because it tastes delicious and, if consumed too freely, is bad for our health.

  1. Sugar is addictive

Some experts believe sugar is an addictive substance. Animal data have shown significant overlap between the consumption of added sugars and drug-like effects, including bingeing, craving, tolerance, withdrawal, cross-sensitization, cross-tolerance, cross-dependence, and reward and opioid effects. Although certainly present in some people, addiction-like behaviors toward sugar and other foods are present only in a minority of obese individuals. However, we should remember that sugar can drive the overconsumption of foods alongside its addiction-like potential.

As of now, there is no scientific evidence that sugar is addictive, although we know that sugar has psychological effects, including producing pleasure, and these are almost certainly mediated via brain reward systems. It is worth noting that even though health experts do not classify sugar as an addictive substance, that does not make it healthful.

  1. Sugar makes kids hyperactive

This is perhaps the most common myth associated with sugar: eating candy causes children to run wild. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that sugar increases hyperactivity in the vast majority of children. This meta-analysis of the reported studies to date found that sugar (mainly sucrose) does not affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children.

  1. Sugar causes diabetes

Another relatively common myth is that sugar directly causes diabetes. However, there is no direct link between the two. The confusion perhaps arises because there is an intrinsic association between blood sugar levels and diabetes. Being overweight and obese are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and consuming high levels of sugar does increase the likelihood of developing overweight or obesity. However, sugar is not the direct cause of type 2 diabetes. As for type 1 diabetes, dietary and lifestyle factors do not play a part.

  1. Avoid fruit when dieting

Fruits are delicious, partly because they are sweet, thanks to naturally occurring sugars. Fruits contain a range of healthful compounds, including a variety of vitamins and minerals, and fiber. Fruit consumption is associated with health benefits, including a reduced mortality rate. Make of that what you will, but there is no doubt that consuming fruit benefits health. Removing it from our diet to reduce sugar intake would be a mistake.

  1. We must eliminate sugar from our diet

Because we know consuming excess sugar is bad for health, it makes sense to reduce our intake.

However, it is not necessary to remove it from our diet entirely.

As we noted above, fruits contain sugar, and they benefit health, so cutting it from our diet would be counter-productive. With that said, sweetened beverages, such as soda, have associations with several negative health consequences, including kidney damage, cellular aging, hip fractures, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and more.

  1. Sugar causes cancer

Despite the rumors, most experts do not believe sugar directly causes cancer or fuels its spread.

Cancer cells divide rapidly, meaning they require a great deal of energy, which sugar can provide. This, perhaps, is the root of this myth. However, all cells need sugar, and cancer cells also require other nutrients to survive, such as amino acids and fats, so it’s not all about the sugar. There’s no evidence that following a sugar-free diet lowers the risk of getting cancer, or boosts the chances of surviving if you are diagnosed. As with diabetes, there is a twist — increased sugar intake has links with weight gain while being overweight and obese are linked with increased cancer risk. So, although sugar does not directly cause cancer and does not help it thrive if someone consumes high levels of sugar and develops obesity, their risk increases.


Sugar is a much-researched topic. Typing “sugar health” into Google Scholar brings up over 44,33,000 results. Navigating this amount of content is unwieldy, and, as with any scientific topic, there are disagreements. Something to bear in mind is that many studies investigating the health impacts of sugar receive funding from the food industry. Although there are a number of misunderstandings surrounding sugar, some things are certain; Although it might not directly cause diabetes or cancer, eating high levels of sugar is not healthful.

Moderation is key.