Top 5 sugar myths: debunking popular fears

Today, March 19, we celebrate the birthday of Sir Walter Houros , who discovered the well-known ascorbic acid and became the author of the first extensive work on carbohydrates. In his book “The Structure of Sugars,” he postulated a circular form of carbohydrates – the so-called perspective images of Houros of glucose, starch, cellulose are well known to all of us from school chemistry textbooks. Houros received the Nobel Prize for his research in these areas in 1937.

Carbohydrates, despite the fact that today even children know about them , for the majority of the population remain a kind of mysterious substance, from which food becomes tasty, and people immediately get fat. 

Myth number 1. Some sugars are higher in calories than others

White sugar is white death, and brown sugar is good for the body! This is one of the persistent myths of fans of a healthy lifestyle and lovers of natural nutrition.

Alas. All types of sugar contain glucose: both white (beet) and brown (cane). Moreover, in terms of calorie content, they are the same.

But there are still differences between them: white sugar is refined, refined, and brown sugar is not. Therefore, in comparison with ordinary sugar, it has an increased content of all useful minerals: phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, zinc, as well as B vitamins.


The ability to recognize sweet taste was given to us by evolution to identify foods rich in vitamin C (ascorbic acid). We do not produce it on our own, and without this vitamin we get seriously ill and die. Fruits are saturated with ascorbic acid – and it is their sweet taste that evolution has aimed at us.

Myth number 2. Sugar makes kids hyperactive

This myth is especially widespread on ” mothers ” forums and in specialized “baby” communities. Some mothers swear that from their sweetness to this obedient child turns into an uncontrollable hyperactive fiend of hell – and, of course, sugar is to blame for this. By hook or by crook, such children are protected from sweets. The question is: should I do this? Can sugar drive a child’s nervous system crazy?

This myth was debunked back in the 1990s. The essence of the experiment was simple to the point of genius: a group of boys received a sweet drink. But in one case, sugar gave it sweetness, and in the other – the sweetener aspartame, consisting not of carbohydrates, but of amino acids and methanol. That is, aspartame could not act like sugar in any way.

The mothers of the boys did not know what drink their child had received. But if they were informed that the boy had drunk a drink with sugar, then they assessed the subsequent behavior of their child as hyperactive , more often criticized him, saw various violations in his actions. If the mothers believed that the child received an innocent sweetener, they did not see hyperactivity in their son’s behavior.

Long-term observations of children who regularly received sugar and various types of sweeteners also showed no changes in the behavior and intelligence of babies.

Where did this myth come from? Scientists explain this by the fact that an abundance of sweets is usually observed on holidays, at various events such as birthdays, etc. Children are usually already overexcited – regardless of whether there is a sweet table. But it looks exactly like increased hyperactivity against the background of a piece of cake eaten .

Another explanation for this myth lies in the reaction to sweets in people with hypoglycemia – low blood sugar. For such people, a sweet drink will really cause a powerful surge of strength and a boost of energy. But a healthy person has an effective system for regulating blood sugar levels, and such jumps in glucose concentration do not occur.

Myth number 3. Sugar is addictive like a drug 

Sweet tooths, licking their lips at the next cake, often say that they cannot refuse such high-calorie and such attractive dishes, because they are hopelessly addicted to sugar, have become “sugar addicts”.

Scientists have been breaking spears on this topic for many years. A number of researchers argue that sugar is even more addictive than cocaine in experimental mice, due to its ability to act on the centers of the brain associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

However, in the course of other studies, scientists have come to the conclusion that acute cravings for sweets are manifested only in those animals that are limited in sweets. If you leave them free sugar, this “addiction” disappears very quickly. A similar effect is observed in relation to people: the strongest cravings for sugar are experienced by those who are restricted from outside access to sweets, as well as people who deceive their bodies with sweeteners.

Scientists explain the similarity of the effect of sugar on the brain’s reward system and on the mechanism of controlling eating behavior by the fact that drugs “hit the same targets.” The difference between sugar and drugs is that the latter take control of them, while sugar does not.

Finally, giving up sugar does not cause the physiological withdrawal symptoms of withdrawal.

Myth number 4. Sugar love is the path to diabetes

Another “horror story” from the field of “folk dietetics”: if there is a lot of sweets, you get diabetes. It is worth clarifying right away that we are not talking about type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease, but about type 2 diabetes, which develops gradually in the presence of specific risk factors.

So: sugar is not one of these risk factors. Indirectly, yes, to some extent, because sugary foods are high in calories, extra calories cause excess weight gain, which eventually turns into obesity, and obesity is just a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. But, as practice shows, you can get fat with any food, not necessarily sugar. So don’t blame him for diabetes.

By the way, diabetes does not mean that sugar is prohibited. Based on the same logic, sugar alone does not affect the course of the disease. But, like any high-calorie food with a high glycemic index, it raises blood glucose levels, and this moment must be controlled. Doctors recommend that diabetics do not give up sugar-containing foods completely, but make sure not to get too much of it – no more than 25 g per day, which is 5 teaspoons. This, of course, is not enough, especially when you consider that just one tablespoon of ketchup contains about 1 teaspoon of sugar. But still this is not a complete ban on its consumption.  

Myth number 5. Sugar causes tooth decay

Mothers all over the world take candy from children under the pretext that they will develop tooth decay. But as with diabetes, sugar alone is not harmful to the teeth. It’s just that the bacteria that live on them eat it. These bacteria produce acid, which destroys tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. Considering that the diet of bacteria consists not only of sugar, it is naive to exclude it from the menu and expect that now teeth will always be healthy. 

Sugar doesn’t have to be banned to truly maintain dental health. It is enough to regularly brush your teeth, it is better to do this after each meal.

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