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sugar | Public enemy No.1 or neutral energy source

If you look at the mainstream media and the public interest in the health sector, a certain carousel of fear quickly becomes apparent, which rotates every few years. Saturated Fat, Sweeteners, Alcohol, Salt, Sugar. Well, for a few years now we've been back to sugar. It causes cancer, makes you stupid, overweight anyway, creates dependencies comparable to cocaine, damages cells and is just a tool of the Illuminati anyway to finally bring their plan of world domination to completion. Reason enough, given the accompanying hysteria, to look at the situation from a more reflective perspective. So you can find out here whether Zucker is really responsible for the assassination of John Lennon, the financial crisis and the Brexit crisis.

The stumbling block

First, a closer look at the subject of the dispute: “sugar” in general usage usually refers to white household sugar, which is obtained from sugar beets. It consists mostly of sucrose, a disaccharide. For the sake of simplicity, the word “sugar” in this article refers to that type of sugar. It provides 4.0 kcal per gram.

The accusations

With regard to the detrimental properties that this substance is accused of, the claims go far. The following theses are the most popular: 

Sugar causes obesity

Perhaps leading the way is the claim that high sugar consumption inevitably causes overweight and obesity because, unlike other carbohydrates, the carbohydrates from sugar are converted directly to fat. The absolute amount of the supplied kilocalories as such does not play a role, only their composition. Here, however, the fact is ignored that the laws of thermodynamics also apply to the human body. Accordingly, overweight, which often correlates with high sugar consumption, is solely due to the fact that the high, easily consumable energy content of sugar, often in combination with fats and a sedentary lifestyle, results in an energy intake far in excess of what is needed. As a result, the body responds by building up triglycerides from excess food energy in lipogenesis and storing them in the adipocytes. However, only the calorie surplus as such is decisive for this, regardless of whether this is produced by an excess of fats or carbohydrates. This has been proven by numerous Metabolic ward studies. 

Sugar causes cancer

This assertion has its origin in the so-called Warburg hypothesis. It originates from the work of the German physiologist Otto Warburg, which he carried out in the 1920s. Normal cells metabolize pyruvate via acetyl-CoA and oxygen. If there is a lack of oxygen, however, this step is omitted and the cell converts the pyruvate into lactic acid, which it then excretes. This process is significantly less efficient and requires far more glucose. When the oxygen supply increases again, the cell produces less lactate and returns to normal energy production via the citric acid cycle. In his investigations, however, Warburg observed that cancer cells also exclusively carry out this so-called lactic acid fermentation when they have sufficient oxygen available. This causes their high glucose consumption. Building on this, however, Warburg developed the theory that this observed disturbance in cell respiration was the sole cause of the development of cancer. In the meantime, however, this theory has been clearly refuted. For one thing, just as sugar is not the same as sugar, cancer is not the same as cancer. Depending on the type of tumor, these differ in many different criteria, including with regard to metabolism. Not all cancer cells show this altered glucose metabolism. In addition, the Warburg hypothesis ignores findings about genetic changes as the actual pathogenic cause. 

Sugar makes you tired and impairs mental performance

It is often heard that for mentally demanding activities, it is better to rely on long-chain "slow-digesting" carbohydrates than foods with a high sugar content. The latter would cause a brief increase, but then induce a real crash in the power curve. However, is that really the case? Interestingly enough, the myth of the "sugar rush" was dismissed in the scientific community as "non-existent" as early as 1995, when an extensive meta-analysis was unable to prove any effects of sugar on children's behavior and cognitive performance. Various theories are used to explain the “sugar rush”. Thus, the serotonin hypothesis posits that consuming sugar results in higher intracerebral levels of the "feel good" transmitter serotonin (an, it should be noted, extremely poorly coined term that misjudges serotonin's actual function) due to higher availability of tryptophan. This has never been scientifically proven. 

Take home message

As you can see, much of the scaremongering surrounding “soft cocaine” is nothing more than unfounded scaremongering and exaggeration by the media, which often aren’t even able to correctly interpret the mere abstract of a study, as well as being augmented by countless self-proclaimed “experts” and “health gurus” who use the general hysteria as an opportunity to sell their (at best ineffective to highly unhealthy) nutritional program. However, even after demystifying, there is one point to keep in mind: Sugar is not a toxic substance, but a very "neutral" carbohydrate. And it is precisely in this neutrality that there is also a certain danger, which often causes the correlation of high sugar consumption with all the various evils attributed to it. Because the human body needs not only the macronutrients proteins, fats and carbohydrates to survive and function effectively, but also numerous vitamins and minerals. A diet that draws its carbohydrates largely from neutral sugars, which do not contain all of these, quickly causes a deficiency and thus indirectly causes numerous problems to arise. In addition, sugar in combination with fat, which is often found in many foods, has an extremely high palatability, i.e. palatability. They are extremely easy to consume, which often means that significantly more calories are consumed than required. 

What you can take from all of this: There is absolutely no reason to eliminate sugar from your diet as long as you are meeting your micronutrient requirements and within your caloric needs. The 80/20 ratio is a practical and proven rule of thumb here. 80% of your calories should come from as unprocessed foods as possible, as well as at least 800g of fruit and vegetables per day. As for the rest: Do as it pleases you!.