Sugar: Not so Sweet


It is no secret that sugar is bad for us. It causes cavities, makes our kids hyper, weakens our immune system and increases our daily caloric intake.  But what if it was doing more than that? What if sugar was responsible for the rapid rise in cases of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease? What if there were recent studies linking sugar consumption to Alzheimer’s and the spread of cancer? And what if sugar was actually so addictive that we couldn’t stop eating it, even if we tried?

Pretty scary.

Sugar is found in almost everything – not just candy and ice cream. Start reading labels: sugar is the main ingredient in over 80% of food items sold in the grocery store. Pasta sauce, cereal, crackers, salad dressing, peanut butter, etc.. Even the labels themselves can be deceiving. The word “sugar” may not appear at all. Other common names include corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, glucose-fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, mannitol and molasses (to name just a few). All sugars (including natural ones like honey and pure maple syrup) are processed by the body in the same way. Physiologically-speaking: sugar is sugar.

When sugar is consumed in large quantities (or even worse – large quantities in liquid form i.e. pop or fruit juice) it is sent directly to the liver where it is immediately metabolized into fat. This leads to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome – both of which, in time, are the primary causes of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Sugar is completely void of any nutrients. It contains no fibre, no protein, no vitamins and no minerals. In fact: you’re the process of digesting sugar actually depletes the body of essential nutrients. Vitamin D, Vitamin C, B-vitamins, calcium, magnesium and chromium levels are all disrupted by sugar consumption. In small doses no big deal but imagine the long-term health effects that could arise if you are chronically deficient in all of these essential nutrients?

According to the most recent analysis from Statistics Canada the average Canadian consumes 110 grams of sugar daily. That’s 26 teaspoons a day – approximately 47 litres of sugar per year. Those statistics are from 2004 – odds are today’s numbers come in even higher.

All of the above should be reason enough to ditch the sweets, but it’s not that easy. Sugar is addictive. Research has shown it to stimulate the same parts of the brain as drugs or alcohol. A famous study published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS) found refined sugar to be more addictive than cocaine. When rats were given the choice over 94% of them chose sugar water over the drug (even the rats who were already dependent on cocaine quickly shifted to the sugar once it became available).


Research regarding the long-term effects of sugar consumption is still not definitive. Refined sugar was not a staple in the standard North American diet until recently. There are many factors that contribute to disease and illness – some that are within our control and others that are not. But it certainly does make you think twice about what you are putting into your body on a daily basis. What we are dealing with here may be more than just empty calories…

Danielle Bossin-Hardy
Holistic Nutritionist
Strength & Conditioning Specialist 

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