Sugar is not toxic. And, it’s not the primary cause of obesity.
Those are the first two things you need to know when considering if sugar is bad. After all, your body is perfectly designed to metabolize sugar. When you eat carbohydrates (any carbohydrates, vegetables included) your body eventually breaks them down into glucose (AKA sugar).
So, the idea that sugar is bad when your body is designed to use it and convert it into energy just doesn’t make sense.
Now, that’s not to say that too much sugar can’t be a problem. It can, but understanding your limits can make your diet a lot less stressful and a lot more delicious. Let’s dig in.
Is Sugar The Cause of
Obesity and Diabetes?
If you’re going to stand up for sugar for anything (because, again, it has some downsides, which we’ll discuss), it’s the belief that sugar is the cause of diseases like obesity and diabetes.
Yes, sugar can play an indirect role in both. But, data and research don’t align to suggest that both diseases are driven by sugar.
Over the last 40 years, our sugar consumption has shifted from 20.8 teaspoons of sugar per day in the 1970s to about 23 teaspoons of sugar per day. Both numbers are too high, but the ~2.2 teaspoons increase is only about 32 added extra calories. Again, too much sugar, but the increase in sugar is not what’s driving obesity.
After all, according to USDA data, calorie consumption has increased by anywhere from 600 to 700 calories over the same time period. For reference, the consumption of fats and oils jumped from 52 pounds per year (per person) in the 1970s to 82 pounds per year more recently.
The problem with obesity is too many calories. And that is a complicated problem that includes many factors such as food availability, hyper-palatable foods (think fat, salty, and sweet combined), psychological factors, social factors, and genetics.
Can sugar potentially make you desire to eat more? Yes. But, as you’ll find out, the poison is in the dose and the source. It’s not one or the other.
The same goes for diabetes. Many people believe that sugar causes diabetes. In reality, it’s excess body fat that triggers the disease. If you have too much body fat, then it creates insulin resistance, which means your body’s natural glucose control breaks and you start storing and processing sugar differently. That’s what leads to prediabetes and, ultimately, diabetes.