Sugar – Sweet Poison?

June 14, 2012 BY: LISA

We have heard a lot in the media recently about sugar, in particular fructose, being the cause of our current world wide obesity epidemic. But is this 100% fact??

What is not in debate is that sugar and sugar containing foods should be eaten in moderation. Sugar gives us empty calories, that is, just a sweet taste with very little nutrients attached- so we certainly don’t need to eat it in large quantities. Indeed, if you decreased your intake of soft drink, lollies, biscuits, pastries, chocolate and cake you would be doing your health and your weight a great favour – but is it the sugar or the total calories that would be causing the decrease in weight?

The Argument :

Research has shown that when rats eat a diet high in fructose (that is up to 60% of the diet) they get a rise in triglycerides, lower HDL(good cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, and insulin resistance = metabolic syndrome. So what the advocates of “Sweet poison” are saying is that the same thing happens in humans.

The Problem:

  • When looking at human data showing actual consumption of fructose in the diet of Americans we see even those with the highest intake of fructose still only manage 20% of the diet as compared to 60% in the rat studies.
  • What is also known is that animals metabolise carbohydrates (of which fructose is one) differently to humans. When humans were given higher levels of fructose in the diet they did not make the amount of fatty acids that was seen in rats.
  • Consumption data in America shows that fructose in the diet has been decreasing since 1999 however rates of obesity are increasing.

The Conclusion:

Certainly aim to decrease sugar in your diet. What you will also be doing is decreasing calories, saturated fat and sodium which is all good news for your weight and health.

Fruit naturally contains fructose and eating 2 pieces of fruit each day is recommended for good health and research is showing that such low GI foods are beneficial to weight and diabetes control.

To label any one product as the cause of our current obesity epidemic is to simplify it too much when currently we do not have the evidence to do so.

Lisa Renn

Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)



  1. Thanks for the artical Lisa, it is easy to understand and always good to get valuable information from someone that knows what they are talking about, instead of the large amount of misinformation thats circulating on the web.
    Rod letts

    Rod Letts
    July 4th, 2012
  2. Pleasure Rod,
    It is sometimes really easy to get misled by current media fascinations! Glad you found it useful.

    August 8th, 2012

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