The sugar is poison or toxic belief has now become part of our cultural dogma.

Even if you search the phrase, ‘Sugar is not a poison’  in google, the top 3 out of 4 articles will state otherwise.

Almost daily I hear people saying:

“Sugar is toxic”

“Sugar is evil”

“Sugar is bad for you”

“It needs to be avoided at all costs.”

This belief is not something new and unfortunately something I also spewed 20 years ago. John Yudkin may have started the wheels in motion in 1972 when he published Pure, White and Deadly. Robert Lustig then grabbed the baton 10 years ago with his YouTube lecture ‘The Bitter Truth’ and was at 9.5 million views last I checked.

The anti sugar movement was starting to gain traction. Throw in the popularity of the Keto and Carnivore diets, not to mention taxes on soft drinks and you can see the cultural belief forming. We have the perfect storm to wipe out a nutrient that has been used for thousands of years. I use the term nutrient which may raise eyebrows but a nutrient is defined as helping an organism to ‘grow, survive, and reproduce.’ This is EXACTLY what sugar can do!

It is essential

Sugar is needed by every cell in the body. This is evident when carbs (sugar) are restricted. The body will then break down tissue to make glycogen (sugar) to feed the cells. This can result in weight loss but done under the state of gluconeogenesis. This is an emergency state and not ideal for optimal health. Hormones of adrenaline and cortisol usually accompany this state. No surprise some people will comment on the state of euphoria or feelings of well being which are accurate but how much is the stress hormone of adrenaline artificially producing this state?

The term ‘sugar’ includes all naturally occurring and added sugars, such as sucrose, glucose, fructose and lactose. All sugars are 4 calories per gram, the same as all carbohydrates. Sucrose, glucose and fructose all occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. The term, sugar, most commonly refers to sucrose, which contains equal parts of glucose and fructose joined together. Almost all fruit contain roughly 50% fructose and 50% sucrose – which ironically is what white table sugar has.

sugar is not poison

 Poison, Toxic and Addictive??

To say sugar is toxic or addictive should be considered physiological illiteracy. David Katz who has spent 20 years in public health as an associate professor and director of the Yale Prevention Research Center stated:

“Sugar, in general, is not poison,” he said. “Breast milk contains sugar. The human bloodstream contains sugar, at all times, and the moment it doesn’t, we die.” He is not alone in trying to set the record straight.

“Sugar is a source of energy in our diet and it is certainly not ‘toxic'” British Nutrition Foundation.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) believes it is simplistic and unhelpful to blame sugar alone for rising rates of obesity and other related health problems across the world. “Labelling sugar as ‘toxic’ and ‘addictive’ and placing it in the same boat as alcohol is incorrect and misleading.”

American Diabetes Association, stated, “Eating too much sugar causes diabetes,” as one of the biggest diabetes myths.

“Sugar’ is not the issue, it is far more complicated than that. The average Australian can do a lot to improve their diet, but casting sugar as the ultimate villain and calling for regulation is misleading, unfounded and unnecessary.” Australian Diabetes Council

There are some obscure addictions like eating glass or drinking blood but sugar in the real sense of the term is not addictive.  How can it be addictive if it’s something every cell in the body requires? In that case many are addicted to sunshine and oxygen. 😉

To say sugar is toxic or poison means at any dose it could kill you or mane. This is definitely not the case.

 Blame Game

It may be part of human nature to help in a weight loss journey to avoid a certain food like sugar or carbs if we deem them the problem. Having it in moderation brings about a certain level of responsibility. If that food is toxic or poisonous the ownus on the individual is shifted. The person in the mirror is no longer responsible. “It’s the food’s fault. I’m just the victim of the food scientists.”

Demonizing any one food can set someone up for shame and guilt. Especially when that food is sweet, tasty and a great quick energy source.

It’s a slippery slope labelling food as toxic or poisonous. It can create an unhealthy relationship with food. When a food that supplies fast and sustained energy is vilified the potential for unhealthy relationships with food and even eating disorders can arise. It’s not just cultural programming reaching for a piece of chocolate or candy. Its usually a physiological need to self regulate.

Considering the brain is the most energy demanding organ it can require one-half of all the sugar energy in the body. We can all attest after a mentally /stressful day you want to reach for that chocolate or ice cream or alcohol (sugar). The choices may not always be optimal but it does show the bodies requirement for sugar.

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” Albert Camus

No doubt, cutting carbs have led to weight loss. This is not anything new. Bodybuilders for more than 75 years have done this 12-16 weeks prior to a competition. They still use this method during a period of the year. But again, its for only a limited time and for a distinct outcome.

The World Health Organization recommends that women consume no more than 24 additional grams and men no more than 37 grams. A teaspoon has roughly 5 grams for reference. The key word here is additional. This does not include fruit, milk, cheese, veggies. If you are not eating fruit because you think it has too much sugar then I want you to think of anyone who has gained weight due to too much fruit. Like most recomendtions they are guidlines and averages. They will vary depending on context. 

An interesting fact is in the last 20 years our sugar consumption  has declined. Availability has increased but refined sugar intake has decreased.

Don’t confuse my defence of sugar in giving the green light to eat unlimited amounts of sugar without the risk of gaining weight. Weight gain will happen with excess calories whether that’s from sugar, fats or protein. But to put the bullseye soley on the back of sugar is just not factual and potentiallly harmful.

If you crave something sweet then eat something sweet.

You are not broken.

You are not weak.

You are not a bad person for wanting something our body needs to survive.

Further reading:

Is Sugar really like cocaine?

Glycemia, starch and sugar in context

Sugar Issue

Sugar decreases, Obesity Increases

Sugar feed thyroid

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