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Is sugar really bad? How much to consume daily

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Sugar, in its many forms, has been a topic of wide discussion in the world of health and

nutrition

. From concerns about weight gain to its impact on overall health, the debate surrounding

sugar consumption

continues to evolve. But is

sugar

really as bad as it’s often portrayed to be? And how much of it should we be consuming on a daily basis? Here are all the facts and myths surrounding sugar to uncover the truth behind its role in our diets.

Is sugar responsible for weight gain?

The age-old question: does sugar make you gain weight? While sugar itself doesn’t possess a magical property that directly leads to fat accumulation, it can indeed contribute to weight gain indirectly. A study published in Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome has shown that an increase in sugar consumption correlates with a rise in

calorie intake

. This is particularly concerning given the prevalence of

added sugars

in processed foods, which not only elevate the calorie content but also make these foods more palatable, leading to overconsumption.

Sugar

Image: Canva

Research conducted in the United States revealed a significant uptick in calorie intake over several decades, primarily driven by added sugars and fats. This suggests that while sugar may not be inherently fattening on its own, its presence in processed foods can contribute to excess calorie consumption, ultimately leading to weight gain if not consumed in moderation.

Sugar increases calorie intake

One of the main culprits behind the calorie surplus that fuels weight gain is the consumption of added sugars. When sugar is added to foods, it tends to enhance their flavour, making them more appealing and consequently leading to higher calorie consumption. However, a study published in the journal Nutrients has shown that when sugar is consumed in isolation, individuals do not significantly increase their calorie intake.

A study conducted at Johns Hopkins University found that rodents consumed similar amounts of calories when given access to pure raw sugar separately from their food. It’s the combination of sugar with other foods that trigger overconsumption, highlighting the role of added sugars in driving calorie intake and potentially contributing to weight gain.

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Sugar, by itself, is not fattening

Contrary to popular belief, sugar by itself is not inherently fattening. Individuals can lose weight even while consuming diets high in sugar, provided they maintain a calorie deficit. For instance, participants in one study were fed high-sugar diets but still managed to lose weight over a six-week period due to calorie restriction.
Additionally, liquid sugar sources, despite their high sugar content, can lead to weight loss as they may not be as satiating, resulting in lower overall calorie intake. These findings challenge the notion that sugar alone is responsible for weight gain and underscore the importance of overall calorie balance in determining body weight.

Sugar (2)

Image: Canva

Recommended daily intake of sugar

Although sugar may not be intrinsically fattening, it is important to consume it in moderation. According to government guidelines, the daily intake of calories from free sugars, including those added to food and beverages, should not surpass 5%. This means that people should consume no more than 30g of free sugars daily, or around 7 teaspoons.

Similarly, children’s sugar intake should be limited, with recommended daily limits ranging from 19g to 24g depending on age. It’s crucial to be aware of hidden sugars in processed foods and beverages, as exceeding these limits can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of various health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.

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