Opinion: Sugar presents unknown health risks


A spoonful of granules of sugar. (BRANDON SAGLAM/ Ethic Photo)

Let’s say your mom asks you to go pick up some milk from the store. You drive to the store, walk in and go to the milk aisle. You scan the types of milk, searching for low-fat and generic options because they are healthier and cheaper. But that is a lie! The fat that they removed to produce low-fat options has been replaced with sugar, which is more dangerous than fat.

Humans have evolved to like sugars because they are very high-energy, and us humans needed that energy to accumulate fat, be active enough to hunt and survive until the next meal. In modern society, however, we don’t exercise, and we have more than enough food at regular intervals. This means that sugar has lost the importance it once held in our lives nutritionally; we have replaced the energy it provided with energy from fossil fuels. Despite this, the average person in the U.S. now consumes more sugar every day than many of our ancestors did.

Estimates for the safe daily value of sugar range from 25 to 50 grams a day. This is staggeringly low in comparison to the amount most Americans take in daily. For example, the orange juice, apple juice and milk provided by the school each have between 26 and 29 grams of sugar. Consider how small those drinks are! In just a half-cup drink, a person’s entire daily value of sugar is fulfilled.

The problem is not limited to government-sponsored cafeteria slop either; other food companies take advantage of the fact that the FDA does not require a percentage daily value (you better believe that’s what food companies are doing with their representatives) to fill our food with undercover sugar. The actual gram number of sugar is usually reported correctly, but that means nothing to most consumers, who don’t know that the 20 grams of sugar in cereals is dangerously high. They also hide sugar in ingredients lists under names like high-fructose corn syrup, dextrin, and barley malt.

Before we can understand where these names came from, we must understand the chemistry of sugar. There are three basic kinds of sugar: glucose, fructose, and galactose (all very similar benzene variations). They appear in different concentrations and configurations depending on the flavor. Starches, for example, are simply hundreds of iterations of glucose (so, avoid them if you have diabetes). This explains our first nickname for sugar: high-fructose corn syrup. This is simply sugar extracted from corn that has a lot of added fructose. Chemically, it could be the same as a mixture of sugars from any other source. Our other nicknames, dextrin, and barley malt are certain chain structures that were named back in the alchemic days when we did not know that they were nearly the same thing.

Now, there are those that will argue that fat and salt are more dangerous than sugar. That is, in fact, where the movement towards low-fat products like the milk mentioned previously came from. But did you know that when they remove the fat to sell you “healthier food,” they often add sugar to make sure it still tastes good? Do your research before consuming low-fat goods.

The problem persists through sugar alternatives too. Although most alternative sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, they have different flavors, and they don’t perform chemically the same way sugar does; they break down when cooked and don’t provide the texture sugar brings. In addition, most artificial sweeteners are mostly sugar. Because they have less than 5 calories’ worth of sugar, they can be marketed as 0 calories. Those darn loopholes.

Sugar is not what you think it is, and hopefully, this inspires you to learn about the marketing and hidden nature of the rest of the food you eat.


Molecules By Theodore Gray


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