The Not-so-Sweet Truth About Sugar

You probably know those softball-sized cinnamon buns at the mall – dripping in sugary icing – aren’t good for you. And you probably avoid the pre-sweetened cereals that are 50% or more sugar. But in spite of your good intentions, you may be eating more sugar than ever.

Just look at the numbers:

  • 1999 – The average American is eating 20 teaspoons of sugar a day. That’s up 30% from 1983.
  • 2003 – We’re each packing away an average of 79 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year. A gigantic 400% rise over 30 years.
  • 2010 – Americans get almost 16% of their total calories from added sugars. Include naturally occurring sugars, and the number jumps even higher.

Is it any surprise that 2/3 of American adults are overweight or obese… that up to 20% of us suffer with fatty liver disease… and that diabetes affects more than 25 million of us?

Our diets have changed a lot over the last quarter of a million years, but our bodies haven’t. And that’s why sugar is such a problem.

You see, your ancient ancestors ate almost no sugar. Having a sweet tooth was no big problem for them. The only way to satisfy their sweet tooth was with seasonal fruits – a healthy choice – or a little honey now and then.

Today, our sweet tooth gets us in trouble. Because practically all processed foods contain added sugars. And those added sugars are linked to high cholesterol and triglycerides (fats)1… obesity and diabetes2… and much more.

That’s bad news. But it gets even worse. Because not all sugar is created equal.

You’ve probably seen the TV ads telling you that “corn sugar” is natural, and that your body can’t tell the difference between “corn sugar” and any other sugar. Well, don’t believe everything you hear.

Corn sugar is the industry’s new name for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and there’s nothing natural about the stuff. In fact, HFCS didn’t even exist until the 1960’s… because it can’t exist in nature.

But it’s cheap to make, easy to transport, blends easily into liquids, and is sweeter than table sugar… so the food industry loves it. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t.

No sugar is good for you, but fructose is downright unhealthy. Your body can easily process the small amounts found naturally in fruits. But not the amounts the food industry is pouring into processed foods – especially soft drinks.

In fact sugar-sweetened beverages are now the #1 source of calories in the U.S. Most of that sweetness comes from HFCS. And here are just 5 of the reasons that’s bad…

  • Eating large amounts of fructose has been linked to high cholesterol and insulin resistance – one of the first steps in developing diabetes.3
  • Fructose is a carbohydrate… but it acts like a fat. Plus, it inhibits the sense of feeling full, making you want to eat even more.4
  • In your body, fructose converts more readily to fat than other sugars do. And eating fructose can change the way your body handles sugar – even hours later.5
  • High fructose intake throws your body’s mineral balance out of whack – including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus – which could lead to bone loss.6
  • Cancer cells not only thrive on fructose… they “prefer” it for certain cellular processes.7

To cut your risk of these health problems, avoid any product with added sugars. But especially avoid soft drinks and fruit juices. Yes, fruit juice.

Fructose is the main sugar in fruit, so drinking fruit juice provides a hefty dose of the stuff. Even “all-natural” fruit juices aren’t all that healthy. They’re often not much more than flavored sugar water.

Instead, eat whole fruits. You’ll get far less sugar, and more of the fiber and other natural compounds that make fruits a healthy treat. If you’re thirsty, skip the soda and fruit juices. Water and iced green tea are your best choices.

And if you’d like to sweeten your tea or coffee, try Stevia. It’s a purely natural sweetener that doesn’t make you fat, sick or diseased. And when you’re on the go or in a restaurant, you can use “liquid Stevia drops.” It’s fast and convenient and the flavor is very close to sugar.


1 Welsh, J.A., et al, “Caloric Sweetener Consumption and Dyslipidemia Among US Adults,” JAMA. 2010; 303(15): 1490-1497.

2 Mei, J., “Research Links Sugar Consumption, Fat Production, and Diabetes,” YaleScientific.org. April 3, 2011.

3 Tappy, L. and Lê, K.A., “Metabolic effects of fructose and the worldwide increase in obesity,” Physiol Rev. Jan 2010; 90(1): 23-46.

4 Lustig, R., “UCSF Physician’s Response to the Corn Syrup vs. Sugar Debate,” Digestive Disease Week.
May 18th, 2009.

5 “Limiting fructose may boost weight loss, researcher reports,” UT Southwestern Medical Center. July 24, 2008.

6 Milne, D.B. and Nielsen, F.H., “The interaction between dietary fructose and magnesium adversely affects macromineral homeostasis in men,” J Am Coll Nutr. Feb 2000; 19(1): 31-37.

7 Liu, H. and Heaney, A.P., “Refined fructose and cancer,” Expert Opin Ther Targets. Sep 2011; 15(9): 1049-1059.

© Copyright 2011 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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