Fat and sick? This is how sugar affects the body

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Written By Kampretz Bianca

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The preference for sweets is in our genes and is encouraged by many finished products and foods, as they often contain much more sugar than consumers suspect. The preference for sugar is therefore not surprising. Furthermore, our central nervous system cannot function without glucose.

Sugar is also found in carbohydrates

However, you don’t need to eat sugar because the body breaks down complex carbohydrates, found in vegetables and whole grain bread, into glucose. During this conversion process, sugar enters the blood slowly and evenly. The situation is different with pure sugar:

“When I eat carbohydrates in the form of sugar, my blood sugar level rises particularly quickly. The body reacts to this by releasing insulin, which means the blood sugar level drops drastically. and therefore I want to eat the next calories immediately.” Andrea Danitschek, Bavarian Consumer Center

Increased energy from glucose

For packaged foods, nutritional values ​​must be indicated in a list. Only mono- and disaccharides can be found under the term “including sugar”. Types of sugar are absorbed into the blood very quickly. Glucose enters the blood more quickly: within minutes, this simple sugar causes blood sugar to skyrocket. True to its name, glucose is found a lot in grapes and is also called glucose (Greek: sweet) or dextrose (i.e. “turns polarized light to the right”). Dextrose is also a component of disaccharides like milk or table sugar.

Complex carbohydrates are better

Polysaccharides or multiple sugars, such as starch, do not need to be listed as sugar in nutritional tables on food packaging. They are also called complex carbohydrates and have little or no sweet taste. They cause blood sugar levels to rise more slowly after eating because they first need to be broken down before being absorbed into the blood.

Does sugar make you sick?

Too much sugar can not only make you fat and lead to obesity: sugar is also often linked to a number of other diseases. For example, many doctors suspect a link between sugar consumption and heart attack risk. However, the only thing scientifically proven is that sugar causes cavities.

What is the maximum recommended amount of sugar per day?

Based on the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), the amount of sugar consumed per day should provide less than five percent of daily energy. This equates to about 24 grams for adults – about eight sugar cubes. This is usually the amount contained in a glass of lemonade or fruit yogurt.

Confusing manufacturer information about sugar content in products

As a general rule, sugar is not explicitly declared in many products. Instead, manufacturers write “sucrose,” for example, which is another name for cane or beet sugar. Or they specify glucose syrup: a starch product made from corn, wheat or potatoes that is cheaper to produce than table sugar.

As many different types of sugar as possible are usually used. The reason: In the ingredients list, the ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity. If it contains a lot of sugar, that should come first. If you use different types of sugar, they will be at the bottom of the ingredients list.

If the manufacturer advertises “no granulated sugar” or labels the product as “sugar-free,” it does not mean the food does not contain sugar.

Is there any difference between different types of sugar?

There are numerous varieties on the market today, for example, vanilla sugar, candy or caramelized brown sugar. However, the types of sugar differ only slightly in terms of nutritional content. Sugar is an empty source of energy, lacking vitamins and fiber.

On the one hand, this is bad for your body and, on the other hand, it is unfavorable for the absorption of nutrients because you eat fewer nutrient-rich products if you prefer sweet snacks, explains Andrea Danitschek from the Bavarian Consumer Center.

Instead, she recommends satisfying your sugar cravings with fruit. Because then “you also have the sugar and energy, but at the same time you also have all the other benefits, that is, vitamins, minerals, fiber”.

But at the same time, nutrition experts warn against excessive fruit consumption: caution is also recommended when it comes to fructose (fruit sugar). Studies carried out in the USA have shown that excessive fructose consumption significantly contributes to obesity, especially in children and adolescents. “The brain does not perceive fructose and the lack of satiety leads to the consumption of large quantities”, says Prof. Olaf Adam, president of the German Academy of Nutritional Medicine.

Many products contain fructose in large quantities, including soft drinks, mayonnaise, cakes or cookies.

Sugar guide: the difference between different types of sugar

The classic domestic or granulated sugar is double sucrose sugar. Table sugar is one of the few foods that does not need to have an expiration date due to its expiration date.

  • Fruits and glucose: Fruit sugar (fructose) and glucose (glucose or dextrose) are simple sugars and components of several multiple sugars. The so-called blood sugar in humans is glucose.
  • Invert sugar: Invert sugar is a sugar mixture that consists of half fructose and half glucose. It is obtained in the food industry through the hydrolysis of sucrose. Honey is a natural invert sugar because it contains both types of sugar – although often not in a 50:50 ratio.
  • refinement: Refined is the domestic sugar you buy in stores. It consists of more than 99% sucrose. Sucrose is found mainly in sugar beets and sugar cane.
  • Sugar cube: The sugar cube was invented in 1840: moistened refined sugar is molded and then dried again.
  • Caramel: Caramel is made by heating sugar. Consistency and color depend mainly on heating time. Recent research has shown that caramel consists of at least 4,000 substances. One reason is that sugar changes significantly when heated.
  • Molasses: Molasses is a syrupy residue from sugar production. It forms the basis for the production of alcohols or yeast cultures and is also used as animal feed. Sugarcane molasses is needed to make rum.
  • Lactose: Lactose is a disaccharide and a component of milk, it often forms the basis of tablets; Many non-Europeans in particular react to milk sugar intolerance after childhood (so-called lactose intolerance).

Are alternative sweeteners like birch sugar etc. better?

Alternative sweeteners like erythritol, birch sugar and stevia are all the rage. They don’t cause cavities and contain significantly fewer calories than table sugar.

The Bavarian Consumer Advice Center advises you in your Special on the subject of sugar [externer Link]: “Used in moderation, they can be recommended, for example, for people with obesity who do not want to go without very sugary foods and drinks. However, they are not a ‘natural’ alternative to sugar […]. From the point of view of consumer advice centers, it makes more sense to enjoy regular sugar or alternatives like honey or beetroot in moderation and gradually lower your own sweetness threshold.”

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