Not All Sugars Are the Same

People often think that the word sugar means table sugar. Although it does, the word sugar can also refer to many other types of sugars as well, including fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose (the table sugar mentioned above). These sugars are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, as well as natural sweeteners such as honey, molasses, and maple syrup. The more commonly used sugars (table sugar, honey, HFCS) contain glucose, which is the only fuel used by the brain and the primary fuel used by working muscles


Dental Cavities are caused by Bacteria Not Sugars

Sugars and cooked starches (e.g., bread, pasta, crackers, and chips) are fermentable carbohydrates that contribute to the risk for dental cavities. In the absence of proper oral hygiene, bacteria present on the teeth can break down sugars and cooked starches to produce acid. Without proper dental hygiene, these acids can eventually erode the enamel leading to dental cavities. Eating a balanced diet in line with current dietary guidelines is important in the reduction of cavity risk.

Doctor holding 2 applesSugars Do Not Cause Obesity and Other Serious Diseases 

Sugars have a long history of safe use in foods. Many health aspects of sugars have been periodically examined by independent scientists. The totality of the data does not single out sugars as a dietary risk factor for chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Since 1997, no fewer than five leading scientific and health organizations including the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have all concluded that dietary sugars are not associated with causing illness or chronic diseases, including obesity.

Kids on tree

Sugars Do Not Cause Hyperactivity

Although the medical and scientific communities long ago concluded that sugars are not responsible for hyperactivity in children, many parents and teachers still believe that sugar affects children's behavior. The Institute of Medicine reviewed more than 23 studies conducted over a 12-year period and concluded that sugar intake does not affect hyperactivity in children. Although it is true that a poor diet one low in nutrients and energy can lead to poor test performance, it is not true that restricting any single food or any single food ingredient will improve behavior. In fact, some studies have shown the opposite to be true: across all age groups, consuming small amounts of sugar has been shown to boost performance on tests of mental abilities and staying on task.

BerriesSugar Is Not Addictive

We are genetically inclined to like sweet foods and for good reasons. Breast milk is sweet, sweet tasting foods such as berries are safe and nutritious foods while bitter substances often are poisonous, and glucose, which tastes sweet, is the only fuel that the brain can use. Today, even though most people can easily find the food sources they need for survival, we still are genetically inclined to like and enjoy sweet foods. This does not, however, mean that these foods are addictive.

Woman holding apple and chocolateEliminating Sugars from Your Diet Is Not Necessary in Order to Lose Weight

Because sugars are ingredients in junk food, it may be natural to suspect that they have a role in contributing to over-consumption and increased body weight. Conversely, high sugar intake is often linked to lower BMI. Several studies have found that as the percent of sugar in the diet increases, body weight and BMI decrease. In a 2002 report on dietary carbohydrates and sugars, the Institute of Medicine noted that for both children and adults, higher intakes of sugars tend to be associated with lower BMI or obesity.

Studies also have examined whether diets high in sugars make losing weight more difficult. When compared to a weight-loss diet high in complex carbohydrates, a weight-loss diet high in sugars resulted in similar weight loss amounts with no effect on dieters moods, concentration, or hunger levels. In addition, both weight loss groups experienced similar improvements in their blood pressure levels and plasma lipid levels. What matters for weight management is total caloric intake balanced with physical activity, not one specific food or type of food.

For additional information:

IFIC Sugars and Health Resources:

The Science of Sugars:

Schorin M, Sollid K, Smith Edge M, Bouchoux A. A Closer Look at Sugars.

Nutrition Today. 2012;47(3);96–101. doi:




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US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th ed. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 2010 Position Statement for the American Diabetes Association:Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes. Diabetes Care 31 (Suppl. 1):S61S78, 2008

Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners.