Sugar

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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2016-05-01 (EDT)

See Also Clinical Nutrition

Sugar is the common name for a variety of molecules, including; fructose (found in fruit and corn/corn syrup), sucrose (found in fruit, tubers, seeds, grains, and sugar cane), glucose (found in fruit, grains, and plants), maltose (found in malted whole grains), and lactose (found in dairy products).[1] Sugars are also referred to as simple carbohydrates. These include monosaccharides, disaccharides and sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol.[2]

Types of Sugars

See Also Sugar Alternatives
  • Sucrose
  • Sucrose is the most common sugar found in the average person's diet. It makes up the following percentages in these sweeteners
  • chemically processed sweeteners white sugar (99%), raw sugar (96%), brown sugar (98%), corn syrup (96%), black strap molasses (65%).[1], [2]
  • naturally processed sweeteners unrefined sugar (82%), maple syrup (65%), sorghum molasses (67%), Barbados molasses (65%), fruit juice (10%), fruit syrup and date sugar (70% or greater).[1]
  • Sucrose is the most common food additive in North America.[3] Processed foods are often high in sucrose and other sugars.[4]
  • Refined sugar is devoid of nutrition such as vitamins, minerals and glucose.[4]
  • Glucose
  • Glucose serves as a necessary fuel for the body's cells.[4]
  • Glucose is released from whole foods that contain carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. The release of glucose from these foods is gradual, and is accompanied by the nutrients that are contained in such foods, such as vitamins and minerals.[4]
  • Fructose
  • Fructose is the sugar found in fruit. It is absorbed more slowly than glucose or sucrose, thus it does not stimulate insulin to be released as quickly as the others do.[5]
  • Honey is an 86% glucose/fructose combination
  • Although corn syrup has fructose, due to its high sucrose content it is best used in moderation.
  • Fructose and galactose have around ten times the glycation effect as glucose.[3]
  • Maltose
  • Maltose makes up the following percentages in these sweeteners:[1]
  • Amasake is 40% or less maltose.
  • Rice syrup and barley malt are 50% maltose.[1]

Composition of Sugars

The composition of the different sugars are as follows:[6]

  • Fructose and glucose are monosaccharides.
  • Sucrose is a disaccharide made up of fructose and glucose.
  • Lactose is a disaccharide made up of glucose and galactose.
  • Maltose is a disaccharide made up of two molecules of glucose.

The following chart outlines the sugar composition of specific sugars.[7]

Pure Sugars (grams sugar per 100 grams)

Sugar Total Sugars Glucose Fructose Sucrose Maltose Total Metabolic
Sucrose (table sugar) 97 97 48.5
Maple sugar 85.2 4.3 4.3 75 41.8
Honey 81.9 33.8 42.4 1.5 4.2 43.2
High fructose corn syrup (42) 71 36.9 29.8 2.1 29.8
High fructose corn syrup (55) 77 30.8 42.4 2.3 42.4
High fructose corn syrup (90) 80 7.2 72 72
Molasses 60 11.2 12.9 34.7 30.3
Sorghum syrup 65.7 33.5
Brown sugar 89.7 5.2 84.1 42.1

Associated Symptoms and Conditions

  • Blood Sugar Dysregulation
  • Consuming a meal or snack that is high in simple sugars of any form, including sucrose as well as honey, or maple syrup, leads to a sharp rise in blood sugar levels, and a resulting rise in blood insulin levels.[5], [8] This then leads to the abrupt uptake of sugar into the cells of the body.[5] This can cause stress on the pancreas.[1] When insulin levels rise sharply like this they tend to remain high for hours afterwards.[5] This leads to a lingering hypoglycemia which, in turn, leads to an increase in appetite and a greater desire for sweet foods.[5]
  • Excessive sugar intake results initially in hyperglycemia, and subsequently in relative hypoglycemia.[4]
  • The Sugar Craving Cycle
  • When insulin levels rise, blood levels of amino acids fall. This is true for all amino acids except tryptophan.[5] This results in an increased uptake of tryptophan into the brain, and a resultant rise in brain serotonin levels.[5] Serotonin has a calming effect and generally improves mood.[5] Eating sugar also causes the release of endorphins, which cause euphoric/pleasurable feelings.[5] This is the mechanism whereby eating foods that contain sugar disturb brain chemistry and are addictive.[5], [10] This is how the consumption of sugar leads to cravings for more of it.[5] The pleasant calm feeling that often accompanies the consumption of sugar is typically followed by a dysphoric state.[5] The more sugar we consume, and the more often we consume it, the stronger become our cravings for it.[5] Not eating refined sugars will lead to an eventual decrease in cravings.[10]
  • Vitamin and Mineral Impact
  • Weight Gain
  • When more sugar is consumed than is immediately needed for energy or than can be converted into glycogen, the excess is deposited into adipose cells as fat to be stored for future use.[6]
  • A common source of sugar is soda pop. There is about 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20 ounces of soda pop. Check out this video for more information on the impact of soda pop on health. [2]
  • Immune System Impact
  • The consumption of refined glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and orange juice, has been shown to compromise the immune system.[1], [8] by reducing neutrophil phagocytosis.[8] This immune suppressing effect is directly proportional to the quantity of sugar consumed.[8] It begins within thirty minutes of sugar consumption and can last for around five hours afterward.[8]
  • Digestive Weakness
  • Sugar depletes digestive enzymes[13] and the level of minerals and contributes to a general weakening of the digestive process.[1] Enzymes must be present in sufficient quantities for food to be digested properly.
  • The chronic inability to properly digest food can lead to the development of food allergies.[13]
  • Refined sugar has an acidifying effect on the body. The main symptoms of acidification are fatigue[11] and an accelerated depletion of the body's mineral stores including calcium and potassium.[1]
  • Sugar is associated with waking up frequently throughout the night, especially between 3 and 5 a.m.
  • Candida
  • Sugar serves as the primary food for candida albicans(a yeast that commonly causes yeast infections).[4], [8] When excess refined sugar or other sources of concentrated sugar i.e. honey, maple syrup, or fruit juices are consumed, the conditions are established for yeast overgrowth.[8] This is especially true when sugar is consumed in conjunction with antibiotics or the birth control pill.[4]
  • Cataracts
  • Elevated serum levels of both glucose and galactose are associated with cataract formation.[6]
  • Mental-Emotional Impact
  • Hypoglycemia is generally associated with an increase in antisocial and aggressive behavior (in men), and can cause depression and anxiety.[8]. The removal of sugar from the diet can sometimes ameliorate these symptoms.[8]
  • Is a common comorbidity in people with psychiatric conditions and addictions.[4]
  • Enzyme Deficiencies

Some individuals are not able to digest specific types of sugars.

  • Galactosemia is a condition in which the body does not produce the enzyme galactose-1-phosphate transferase. As a result of this, galactose cannot be metabolized properly and thus, toxins build up in the body when it is consumed. This can lead to: vomiting, weight loss, cirrhosis of the liver, mental retardation, and even death.[3]
  • Lactose intolerance is a condition in which there is insufficient quantities of the enzyme lactase present for the proper digestion of dairy products.[3] Symptoms include cramping and watery acidic diarrhea following the consumption of dairy products.[3] This condition is common and progressive. Approximately twenty percent of Caucasians and between fifty and eighty percent of Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, and Asians develop lactose intolerance as they age.[3] Lactose intolerance can occur temporarily as a result of infection.[3]
  • The over-consumption of sugar contributes to the following conditions:[8]
  • migraine headaches
  • irritable bowel syndrome[8]
  • biliary tract cancer[8]
  • kidney stones[8]
  • osteoporosis[8]
  • dental cavities[8]
  • gallstones[8]
  • gout[8]
  • candida overgrowth/yeast infections[4][8]
  • Type 2 diabetes[4][8]
  • elevations in blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels[8]
  • hyperactivity in children[8]
  • restless and aggressive behavior[8]
  • chronic fatigue syndrome[8]
  • chronic diseases in general[8]

Instead of Sugar

Consume unprocessed foods, as they contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, and other essential nutrients that help the body to transform and utilize the sugar they contain.[5], [11] Sugar in whole foods is digested and absorbed more gradually, allowing for the maintenance of lower and more constant blood sugar level.[1][5] Small balanced nutritious meals, eaten frequently, help to moderate the appetite regulating chemicals in the brain.[5]

  • Fiber slows the rise in blood sugar the accompanies the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar, and increases insulin sensitivity.[8]
  • Fruit does not adversely affect blood sugar levels (unless it is concentrated i.e. orange juice).[5]
  • When fat is in food, the glycemic index is reduced because fat slows the digestion of starch.[14]
  • Micro-algae such as spirolina, chlorella, and wild blue-green algae help to reduce sweet cravings.[1] They also help to regulate blood sugar metabolism.[1]
  • Eat sweet tasting veggies for dessert, such as: carrots, winter squash, sweet potato, parsnip, or jerusalem artichoke.[1] These vegetables will cause blood sugar to rise moderately and endure for a longer time than sugar,[1] thus providing needed energy in a healthy way.
  • Exercise helps regulate blood sugar levels, and causes the release of endorphins. For the latter reason, it can be substituted for sugar when cravings are felt.[5]
  • Alternatives to refined sugar include: brown rice syrup, barley malt, stevia, unrefined cane juice powder, maple syrup, molasses, or amasake.[1]

Decreasing sugar intake typically leads to improved: mood, emotional stability, memory, speech, and sleep, immune function, and concentration.[1] However, it takes two or three weeks of eating well before sugar cravings stop, and these positive changes occur.[5]

  • If quantities of dietary sugar are reduced quickly, sugar cravings and withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, depression, and tiredness, may temporarily ensue.[1] To avoid this, reduce dietary sugar intake gradually.[1]
  • Raw carrots help to reduce sugar cravings.[1]
  • When sugar is removed from the diet, balanced meals become more satisfying.[1]

Other Names for Sugar

  • Barley malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown rice sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Confectioner's sugar
  • Corn starch
  • Corn sweetner
  • Corn syrup
  • Date sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Frutooliosaccharides
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • Granulated sugar
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malted barley
  • Maple maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Maple sugar
  • Microcrystalline cellulose
  • Molasses
  • Polydextrose
  • Powdered sugar
  • Raisin juice
  • Raisin powder
  • Raw sugar
  • Sorbitol
  • Sucanat
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar cance
  • Torbinado sugar
  • Xylitol

References

Co-Authored by:

Dr. Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE [3]
Dr. Raymond Trott, ND
  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 Pitchford Paul (2002) Healing With Whole Foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition, North Atlantic Books
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hurst W Jeffrey (2008) [Methods of Analysis for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, Second Edition], CRC press.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Spallholz Julian E. (1999). [Nutrition, Chemistry and Biology, Second Edition] CRC Press Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Spallholz" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 Hoffer Abram, Prousky Jonathan (2006) Naturopathic Nutrition, a Guide to Health Food and Nutritional Supplements, CCNM press
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 Somer Elizabeth (1999) Food and Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best, Second Edition, Henry Holt.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Katz David L. (2001). [Nutrition in Clinical Practice] Lipincott Williams and Wilkins
  7. The Paleolithic Diet [1]
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 8.19 8.20 8.21 8.22 8.23 8.24 8.25 8.26 8.27 Pizzorno JE, Murray MT (1999) A Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition Churchill Livingston Elsevier
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Peppa Melpomeni, Uribarri Jaime, Vlassara Helen (2003) Glucose, advanced glycation end products, and diabetes complications: what is new and what works. Clinical Diabetes:21(4):186-187.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Marohn Stephanie (2004) The Natural Medicine Guide to Addiction, Hampton Roads.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Vasey Christopher (1999) The Acid-Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health: Restore your Health by Creating pH Balance in Your Diet Healing Arts press
  12. Pizzorno JE, Murray MT (1997) A Textbook of Natural Medicine, 2nd Edition Churchill Livingston Elsevier
  13. 13.0 13.1 Appleton Nancy (1996) Lick The Sugar Habit, Avery.
  14. Weil Andrew. (2000). [Eating Well for Optimum Health: the Essential Guide to Bringing Health and Pleasure back to Eating] Quill