Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More Sweet News

We all know that sugar (in pure form or one of its many disguises) is not a health food. But it’s also not necessarily as evil as it’s made out to be. Sugar, a type of simple carbohydrate that the body uses for energy, occurs naturally in many healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk and some grains. Sugar in its various forms is also added to foods and beverages because it enhances flavor, gives baked goods texture and color, acts as a preservative, enables bread to rise, is a bulking agent, and balances the acidity of vinegar and tomatoes.

There are a couple of common myths about sugar that are not supported by research. First is that sugar causes diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, it does not. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce insulin, a result of genetics and unknown factors. Genetics and lifestyle factors cause the much more prevalent type 2 diabetes, where either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells don’t respond to insulin. Sugar does contribute to obesity and overweight, and these are very much linked to diabetes, however.

Second, there is no scientific evidence that sugary foods cause hyperactivity. According to Consumer Reports, more than a dozen good-quality studies have failed to find any link between sugar in children's diets and hyperactive behavior. In one study, parents who were told that their children had been given sugary drinks went on to rate their children as hyperactive. In reality, their children had really been given a sugar-free drink and the difference was in the parents' perception. Health experts believe that it’s the events where sugar is consumed in large quantities, such as birthday parties, that promote the high energy.

This is not intended to encourage you to embrace sugar. Unless you have medical advice to the contrary, the adage “moderation in all things” is likely to be an effective approach to sugar.

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