The Truth About Sugar (it’s Not As Complicated As You’ve Been Led To Believe)
It’s the best of times (for sugar haters) and the worst of times (for sugar lovers).
The wellness set dictates sugar is bad— as addictive as hard drugs, and even toxic — and that if you must consume it, it should be in healthier forms such as agave or rice malt syrup.
But that perception isn’t wholly accurate, according to a panel of nutrition experts who discussed the pros and cons of sugar at the British Science Festival this week.
Led by Judy Swift, Associate Professor of Behavioural Nutrition at the University of Nottingham, the panel commenced by clarifying that “sugar” goes way beyond the white powder you sprinkle into your tea and on your breakfast sugar.
Table sugar is scientifically known as sucrose, which is a chemical combination of two simple sugars: glucose, your body’s go-to energy fuel; and fructose, the type of sugar found in fruit.
Other common types of include dextrose, maltose, and the milk sugar lactose.
There’s a lot of conflicting information about whether some types of sugar are better or worse than others — fructose is often singled out as a dietary demon, for example — but one of the panellists dismissed these claims as “nutri-babble”.
“The bottom line is that once it’s in our bodies, sugar is just sugar,” said Dr Duane Mellor, a senior lecturer in human nutrition at Coventry University, according to the University of Nottingham’s write-up of the panel.
While agave and rice malt syrups are spruiked as “healthy” sugars, Mellor said you’re better off spending your money on fresh vegetables instead of a trendy (and expensive) wellness fad.
“Celebrities are glamorising these exotic 'one-shot' solutions rather than working on making honest, simple, healthy food more attractive,” he said, reports the Daily Mail.
Putting all the blame on sugar for rising rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other maladies won’t solve those dilemmas, o the panellists.
“I don’t find the demonisation of sugar helpful,” Swift said.
The panel concluded cutting out sugar isn’t a “magic bullet” — and that it’s just fine provided you eat it in limited quantities (just like, y’know, literally every other food).
“We need to reduce calorie consumption, not just sugar. There is no such thing as a good or bad food,” they said. “By focusing in on a single nutrient, we risk neglecting other important food areas, and as such risk increasing food desirability and guilt.”