Sugar. The newly discovered culprit for our ever-growing obesity epidemic. But what is so bad about it and how can we cut down?
Article by Nicola Davies.
White sugar, otherwise known as sucrose, is broken down into glucose and fructose and used by our bodies for energy. This same form of energy comes from the carbohydrates we eat and is the fuel our brain requires to function. But what happens to this high-energy molecule when we eat too much of it?
As soon as we consume sugary foods, the hormone insulin is released into our blood stream. This acts to remove glucose from the blood and store it in the liver, ready for later use. Insulin also has a negative effect on fat metabolism. The more insulin release is triggered throughout the day, the more fat is deposited within our body and the less fat is broken down. Repeated release of insulin throughout the day can eventually lead to our cells no longer responding to the hormone and type 2 diabetes can result.
Continual high fluctuations in blood glucose levels, known as hyperglycaemia, can also have damaging effects on blood vessels. This can cause the accumulation of fatty deposits in our arteries and lead to diseases such as atherosclerosis and even heart attacks or strokes [Kolluru, 2012].
The UK National Health Service recommends that no more than 5% of our daily energy comes from added sugar. Though this may not sound a lot, this is LESS than one can of Coca Cola or one Starbucks hot chocolate. So, what other options are out there?
Erythritol is a ‘sugar alcohol’ which is absorbed into the blood and then expelled from the body in urine. It therefore has no calorific value and is ideal for those wanting to reduce their daily energy intake to lose weight. Erythritol is also suitable for diabetic patients as it does not affect blood glucose or trigger the release of insulin [Shin, 2016].
Another sugar substitute comes from the Stevia Rebaudia plant which is over 100 times sweeter than sucrose [Goyal, 2010]. Good Good brand ‘Sweet Like Sugar’ combines erythritol with stevia and can be used in the same way as sugar in everyday cooking and healthy recipes. A further benefit to using these instead of sugar is preventing tooth decay. Erythritol has recently been shown to reduce dental plaque and prevent the adherence of oral bacteria to teeth [de Cock, 2016].
To summarise, the consumption of sugar in our diets is detrimental to our health at the level we are currently consuming. It is therefore advised to minimise our intake to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity and this can be supported with sugar substitutes such as stevia and erythritol.
1. Kolluru GK, Bir SC, Kevil CG. (2012). Endothelial Dysfunction and Diabetes: Effects on Angiogenesis, Vascular Remodeling, and Wound Healing. Int J Vasc Med. 918267.
2. Shin DH, Lee JH, Kang MS et al. (2016). Glycemic Effects of Rebaudioside A and Erythritol in People with Glucose Intolerance. Diabetes Metab J. 40(4): p283-289.
3. Goyal SK, Samsher, Goyal RK. (2010). Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) a bio-sweetener: a review. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 61(6): p1-10.
4. De Cock P, Makinen K, Honkala E et al. (2016). Erythritol Is More Effective Than Xylitol and Sorbitol in Managing Oral Health Endpoints. Int J Dent. 9868421.