A common myth that’s been circulating not only the health community, but also… well, most of the world, is that sugar can kill you. Not only is this untrue, but it’s also another one of those dangerous misconceptions that gets spread through opinion and word of mouth rather than actual scientific evidence.
“If sugar isn’t bad for you, how do you explain diabetes?!”
This is one of the very poorly thought out arguments on reasons that sugar is evil. But people who throw diabetes out there as a legitimate argument against sugar, show that they don’t actually know what diabetes is. In short, diabetes is a disease that affects insulin production. There are several links that explain diabetes. Pick one, or read them all to understand.
The majority of people who say they don’t consume sugar mean that they don’t eat added sugar, but sugar is a lot more complex than that. Eating anything in excess can cause bodily harm, that includes things typically considered healthy.
Just recently, I heard a story about a father and his son walking into a Whole Foods and purchasing organic orange juice (which contains no added sugar). The father gave his parched son the orange juice and continued his shopping. Unbeknowst to the father, the son chugged the orange juice. The person who told me about this was an employee and watched the boy as he chugged it. When the father pushed the cart around the corner, the employee heard a loud hurling sound, followed by the father exclaiming, “I just don’t know what happened!”
You gave your son a highly acidic fluid and let him chug the entire thing. That’s what happened. When you drink an entire jug of OJ, you’re potentially damaging your stomach lining. You can drink more soda (which has a lot more sugar in it) than you can drink orange juice before damaging your insides – though I definitely wouldn’t recommend an excess of either. There’s no added sugar in organic orange juice, and yet sugar is always under fire for being the culprit behind many diseases and obesity.
The causes of these very serious problems isn’t sugar. It’s people. Heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), sleep apnea, and many more are caused by the following:
- Poor diet
- Lack of physical activity
Genetics is something that is inherrent. Overeating, poor diet (even when you get the right amount of calories), and lack of physical activity are your responsibility. Neither sugar nor any other chemical compound has any part in that.
Painting sugar as the bad guy can lead to a lot of what I call “food fear”, where there shouldn’t be any. For starters, there are many different types of sugars. Fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose, and maltose are some of the many different types of sugar. For more on the chemical structure of sugars, click here.
Does any of that sound familiar? If you’ve heard of high fructose corn syrup, you’ve heard of at least one of these sugars. A lot of misinformed people will tell you that HFCS is a toxin, or poison, but it is simply a sugar made from corn. When broken down into its basic compounds, HFCS is nearly identical to table sugar, which you put in your coffee each morning.
Lactose might also sound familiar if you’ve heard of the term lactose intolerant, which means an inability to digest lactose – a sugar commonly found in milk and other dairy products. Those of us who lack the enzyme lactase cannot consume most dairy products. However, there are some products made specifically with the addition of lactase so that people like me can drink and enjoy milk without the repurcussions.
A big problem with saying sugar is bad, is that people who make this claim are probably consuming sugar without even realizing it. When a recipe claims to be healthy because it uses stevia or honey, what it means is that it doesn’t have refined white sugar, which has the same compounds as stevia and honey.
Contrary to popular belief, sugar is actually a necessity in the growth of children. Findings have shown that we’re hardwired at a young age to crave sweet things, but why is this? As it happens, we need sugar in times of rapid growth, and it also works as a pain reliever. That’s why we give children lollipops at the doctors office.
TL;DR – The problem isn’t sugar. Eating to excess can cause an array of problems, regardless of what you’re eating. If I only eat fast food, I’m going to have problems. If I only eat fruits, again I’m going to have problems. Sugar kills as much as a honey bee kills. It’s all about balance and taking responsibility. It’s not a corporation’s job to make sure you’re being healthy. You have to hold yourself accountable.
The takeaway message is this: There is no bad food. A balance of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, protein, and indulgences will lead to a happy and healthy life.