Nutrition Blog‎ > ‎

Is Sugar the Enemy: Sugar and Your Health

posted Nov 6, 2017, 9:26 AM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap in last few years. But, all carbs are not created equal. Carbohydrates can be categorized into simple carbs (sugar) and complex carbs (whole grains, fruits and vegetables).  In fact our bodies need complex carbs, for optimal brain function and for energy especially during exercise. It is the simple carbs, ie. sugar that we need to be concerned about.

Some foods, like fruit, contain sugar naturally, other foods like cakes, cookies and sodas contain added sugars. It is these added sugars we need to watch out for. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Americans should consume no more that 10% of total calories from added sugars per day (about 12-15 teaspoons/day). Many Americans consume up to 25% of their total calories from added sugars and this can have a profound affect on their health.

Let’s take a look at some of the harmful effects excessive sugar has our bodies and our health.

Diabetes -  It has long been thought that consuming sugar can cause type 2 diabetes, but recent studies have found that eating recommended amounts of sugar as part of a healthy diet does not increase your risk. However, studies have shown that consuming high sugar beverages does increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Heart disease - There aren’t many dietary studies linking sugar intake to cardiovascular death but there have been associations between high sugar intake (20% of calories or 30 teaspoons/day) and an increase triglycerides and decrease in HDL levels (good cholesterol). Both of these can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. One study showed that compared to those who consumed 8% of calories from sugar; those consuming 17-21% of calories from sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. So, while more studies need to be done, excessive sugar intake does seem to have a negative on the cardiovascular system.

Tooth decay- We all have bacteria is our mouths and this bacteria thrive on sugar. The more sugar you eat the more the bacteria multiply and this excess bacteria then can cause tooth decay.

Inadequate diet - Foods high in sugar can replace more nutritious foods in the diet. Sugar has no vitamins or minerals, it is ‘empty calories’ and because high sugar foods taste good there is the tendency to overeat these types of foods, which can lead to weight gain.

So, should we limit added sugars? Yes, too much of any nutrient isn’t good, but we don’t need to eliminate it totally. Sugar plays a role in baking and flavoring foods, so in small amounts it is not too bad.  The American Heart Association has stricter guidelines, which is recommended for better health. Most women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons/day or 100 calories and most men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons/day or 150 calories. So, take a look at the amount of added sugar you are consuming and if it is too much, try making some changes. Check out to calculate how much sugar you are consuming and for healthy eating tips. Our next blog will focus on reducing sugar intake.