Sugar. “La Dolce Vita”
Today we live a sweet life. Sugar is found in practically everything we consume, even when we don’t realize it, and we miss it when it’s not present.
But this sugar phenomenon is something new. Until the beginning of the last century, sugar was a scarce and expensive product, so it used to be under lock and key.
Its use was not every day. Now, life without sugar is a heresy.
And since we find sugar everywhere, the diseases associated with its consumption have multiplied its presence exponentially.
Although there is no formal relationship between the genesis of diabetes mellitus and sugar consumption, the latter represents a significant risk factor.
The same is true for dental caries and obesity, which are diseases that are made worse by sugar intake.
The processed cereals, pastries, bread, canned goods, and condiments that are common in the kitchen have among their ingredients sugars of some kind.
It is also in many drinks, whether commercial or homemade, and we even add it to our daily coffee to suppress the bitter taste.
As we can see, sugar is always by our side, and we must learn to live with it.
The science of sugar
Scientists now suggest that the taste of sweet foods affects the digestive system favorably.
The desire for sweetness is in our genes. It is possible that, during evolution, humans have learned to relate healthy food according to its taste: sweet is excellent and bitter is toxic.
Consuming sugar is very rewarding and pleasant, both in terms of taste and nutritional intake.
Sugar intake in regular doses provides much of the energy needed for the normal functioning of the body.
However, excess sugars can be harmful to health. Scientifics associate it with the development of overweight, metabolic syndrome, and inflammatory diseases.
Some studies show that it is addictive. Sugar use stimulates the same pleasure centers as some recreational drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.
Wen we consume sweets, Dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter related to pleasure, increases its amount.
And the symptoms of sugar withdrawal resemble those of alcohol withdrawal.
Glucose is the primary fuel of the human body. In addition to its energy supply, it is a fundamental part of all the carbohydrates we consume.
There are many types of sugars in this world, not all of which are consumed by humans. The most important to man are those that have glucose in their formula or are very similar to it.
It’s a monosaccharide containing six carbon atoms. We usually find it in some fruits and honey.
It constitutes, as already said, the primary source of energy for living beings. Glucose is a structural part of glycogen, which is, in turn, the body’s primary energy reservoir.
Blood glucose levels are usually measured to detect some diseases such as diabetes.
As the name suggests, fructose is abundant in fruits, but we also find it in vegetables and honey.
It is a monosaccharide very similar to glucose in its components, but its structure is different.
It is also known as levulose. They isolate fructose through specific chemical procedures, and they sell it as an alternative to glucose.
The third representative of monosaccharides is galactose. Like the previous two, its components are the same, but not its structure.
Galactose enters the body as part of milk products and is transformed into glucose when it reaches the liver.
Synthesize it is difficult, and therefore we can not buy it in a powdered form like glucose or fructose.
It is the first disaccharide presented here and is better known as “common sugar” or “table sugar.”
A mixture of glucose and fructose form it. It is the most widely used sweetener in cooking and is generally extracted from sugar cane, beet and corn, having other minor sources such as maple syrup and sorghum.
After its extraction, Sucrose goes through a process of deep refining and crystallization.
Hence its traditional white color. Sometimes, this process is less intense or not carried out at all, obtaining then the brown sugar.
Another element derived from the refining of Sucrose is molasses, used as food in livestock farming, and the production of liqueurs.
Lactose is another disaccharide, a glucose molecule with a galactose molecule combined compose it.
It is the primary sugar in milk and other dairy products. That is why it is also known as milk sugar.
When ingested, it reaches the intestine where it is separated into its two main components thanks to the activity of an enzyme called lactase. Then glucose and galactose are metabolized individually.
Breastfeed babies get a lot of their energy from lactose.
The milk produced by most female mammals, including the female, is composed of 90% water, 5% carbohydrates (basically lactose), fats, minerals, and vitamins.
Unlike Sucrose, lactose is not refined or openly marketed. There is a significant incidence of lactose intolerance, especially in adults, which limits its consumption.
That is because the enzyme lactase, present in the epithelium of the intestine, is lost naturally over the years.
Scientific logic explains that when human beings grow up, they no longer feed on mother’s milk and therefore do not need to metabolize lactose. Still, our species continues to consume milk in adulthood obtained from other sources (cows, sheep, goats, among others).
Glucose + glucose. That is the simple formula for maltose, the other disaccharide of importance to humans, which we can find it in malt or barley beer.
That is why it is also known as “malt sugar” or maltobiose.
Degradation of the body’s glycogen stores, in particular, situations, can produce maltose as an energy source. We can also find it in starch.
Maltose is commercially available in the form of syrup. It is very appreciated in the baking industry due to its high sweetening power, that is, by adding a small amount to any mixture, it becomes delightful.
The primary source of commercial maltose is not barley but corn starch.
Sugar from alcohols
Sugars from alcohol, or polyols, are carbohydrates that we use as substitutes for regular sugar, especially in the food industry and cooking.
Among the best known are sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, isomalt, and erythritol.
There are other products known as hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. They are popular in healthy baking companies.
Also, they have become popular in recent times for two main reasons:
- They have a high sweetening power.
- Sugar from alcohol is less harmful to health.
The latter is still controversial. Some scientists claim that certain alcohol sugars – mannitol, erythritol – do not affect glycemia.
Despite this, the most widely used in the food industry, maltitol, does raise blood sugar by a great deal.
Further studies are needed to determine the effects of alcohol sugars on the body.
Its behavior on the metabolism of fats, proteins, and other carbohydrates is still unknown.
Nor have the consequences of their long-term consumption and their influence on the occurrence of diseases historically associated with sugar were described.
Is sugar poison for our body? sugar and health
The biggest concern for those who care about their health is a large amount of sugar added to processed foods.
Cakes, chocolates, pastries, cakes, ice cream, syrups, among others, contain a large number of carbohydrates provided by sugar, which end up being harmful to health.
From a nutritional point of view, carbohydrates, including sugar, provide four calories per gram.
This energy is vital for our daily performance. The problem arises when most of the calories we consume come from carbohydrates and displace protein and fat.
What is worse, they can add to them and lead to obesity and its associated complications.
If we require about 2,000 calories a day, and almost all of them come from sugar, we will find ourselves with deficiencies of vitamins and minerals that should be supplied by other foods.
These calories, known as “empty,” end up accumulating in the body as fatty tissue, affecting our heart, arteries, liver, kidneys, and many other organs.
The sugar that enters the body is processed through multiple pathways until it turns in to glucose, which penetrates the cells in the form of energy for them to perform their vital functions.
We store unused glucose as glycogen in the liver, muscle, and brain.
Unfortunately, excess sugar can cause insulin levels to remain high and thus stop the burning of body fat that should usually occur and then build up.
We must then clarify: sugar does not change into fat to accumulate. What sugar does is stop the lipolysis or utilization of fat to form energy.
So how do we explain that reducing sugar consumption promotes weight loss? It is simple.
When you stop eating it, insulin levels drop, and therefore fat can be metabolized for energy. It is the combination of high sugar and high-fat foods that is harmful.
If you want to know more about the correct diet, do not hesitate to visit our nutrition section.
Children and Sugar
Kids love candy. They taste delicious, and as a consequence, they prefer it over salty or bitter foods.
The final consequence of this alteration is a nutritional imbalance with potentially devastating results, including obesity, cavities, and hyperactivity.
Scientifics already discussed the effect of sugars on obesity. As for cavities, we must clarify that it does not produce them directly.
What happens is that the bacteria usually found in our mouths generate acid as an end product of their internal metabolism.
This acid damages the teeth, and as the bacteria feed on sugar, the more sugar there is, the more acid they produce and, therefore, the more deterioration the teeth suffer.
Restlessness in children, or hyperactivity, is also often attributed to it. That is not necessarily true either.
What is true is that sugar translates into energy within our bodies. This energy must be spent or accumulated.
To spend it, children must make much more physical effort, and this can be confused with hyperactivity.
It is best to take the hyperactive child to the doctor, mainly if symptoms of inattention and learning deficits are also associated.
Sugar, as a carbohydrate, is fundamental to life. Our diet should include it but in ideal amounts.
The diseases associated with its consumption are accelerated or exacerbated but are not caused by it.
There are many other real causes of diabetes, overweight and tooth decay, such as environmental factors, genetics, biochemical alterations, and even personal neglect.
That does not mean that we should not monitor sugar intake because we have already seen the damage caused by excess sugar.
Americans eat up to 45 kilos of sugar a year. This outburst has consequences.
The right thing to do is balanced nutrition through healthy recipes, and we have to accompany this by appropriate physical activity.
If you are an athlete, you will need more carbohydrates to transform into energy. If you are a sedentary person, those carbohydrates will end up being lethal.
We obtain brown or white sugar from various vegetables such as beets or fruits, such as a cane.
Wouldn’t it be ideal to consume these fruits and vegetables directly and not already processed? This way, they provide more vitamins and minerals, which are easier to digest and healthier.
Finally, let’s be careful with the so-called natural and whole-food sweeteners. The products used to sweeten them can end up being more harmful.
In the following video, you will see the scientific truth about sugar and sweeteners.