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Sugar: Forms & Uses and Health Effects Essay

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Updated: Apr 13th, 2022

Introduction

Chiavaroli, Ha, De Souza, Kendall and Sievenpiper (2014) allege that the term sugar “is the generalised name for sweet, short-chain, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food” (p. 28). Therefore, the term sugar stands for a cluster of carbohydrates that constitute carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. There are numerous forms of sugars that are obtained from varied sources. Simple sugars are referred to as monosaccharides. The monosaccharides include dextrose, galactose, and fructose. The typical sugar, which is used as food is referred to as sucrose and it falls under disaccharides. Chiavaroli et al. (2014) argue that not all substances with a sweet taste are categorised as sugars. Instead, the substances are used in place of sugar and are referred to as artificial sweeteners. The majority of plant tissues contain sugar. There are believes that excess sugar is harmful to human health. Sugar is believed to cause numerous diseases, which include diabetes, Alzheimer disease, dementia, obesity, tooth decay and cardiovascular disease.

Facts about Sugar

There are assumptions that the sugar contained in fruits is better for human body relative to table sugar. Nevertheless, from the nutritionist’s perspective, there is no difference between natural and table sugar. They two contain the same substance. Besides, the body utilises the sugar found in fruits in a similar way that it uses table sugar. It changes all kinds of sugars into glucose, which is useful. According to nutritionists, “it does not matter what foods provide the sugars in our diet….all sugars are put to the same good use” (Chiavaroli et al., 2014, p. 32). Apart from vitamins and fibre, all vegetables and fruits have sucrose. Lakhan and Kirchgessner (2013) allege that sugar is one of the primary sources of energy for the body. The assertion that sugar does not provide calories undermines the importance of sugar in food. Lakhan and Kirchgessner (2013) suppose that sugar is eaten as one of the constituents of food rich in minerals and vitamins. Besides, sugar helps to boost the taste and appeal of the majority of wholesome meals. Study indicates that adding sugar to yoghurt, milk, and cereals promotes the value of adolescents’ food.

Forms and Uses

According to Lakhan and Kirchgessner (2013), “granulated sugars are used at the table to sprinkle on foods, to sweeten hot drinks and in home baking to add sweetness and texture to cooked products” (p. 115). In addition, granulated sugars are used to conserve fresh food. Apart from granulated sugars, there are powdered sugars that are used in confectionery. Furthermore, powdered sugars are used in preparing cakes and in confectionery. Other forms of sugars include screened sugars, brown sugars, liquid sugars, invert sugars and low-calorie sugars. Screened sugars are “crystalline products separated according to the size of the grains” (Lakhan & Kirchgessner, 2013, p. 118). They are used in baking, as ornamental table sugars and in confectionary. Lakhan and Kirchgessner (2013) posit, “Brown sugars have their crushed particles coated with molasses to form dark sugars” (p. 119). Brown sugars are mostly used in toffees and confectionery. According to Siri-Tarino, Sun, Frank and Krauss (2010), liquid sugars are made by dissolving at least 67% of crushed sugar in water. Liquid sugars are mostly used to prepare drinks, jam, ice cream and candy. Siri-Tarino et al. (2010) posit, “low-calorie sugars comprise a mixture of sweeteners and maltodextrin” (p. 507). Saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame are used to produce low-calorie sugars.

Health Effects

Blood Sugar Levels

The majority of enquiries about the health impacts of sugar are predominantly open to discussion. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have in most cases disagreed on health effects of refined and unrefined sugar. The two agencies conduct their studies only on people who consume sugar. Failure to carry out studies on people who do not consume sugar makes their findings inconclusive (Siri-Tarino et al., 2010). Indeed, numerous articles have been published to dispute the WHO and FAO findings. The articles allege that the findings are exaggerated and unreliable. Initially, people held that only sugar elevates the intensity of blood glucose in the body due to its simple chemical composition. However, nutritionists have confirmed that French fries and white bread contribute to increasing in blood sugar. On the other hand, they have alleged that fructose has no impact on blood sugar. Siri-Tarino et al. (2010) claim, “As far as blood sugar is concerned, carbohydrates are classified according to their glycemic index, a system for measuring how quickly a food that is eaten raises blood sugar levels” (p. 507).

Obesity and Diabetes

Doctors have confirmed that excessive intake of sugar-sweetened products, especially drinks raises body obese and leads to an individual becoming overweight. Besides, they have confirmed that artificial sweeteners help in weight loss. Studies on the correlation between diabetes and sugar are questionable, with some purporting that undue consumption of sugar does not expose an individual to dangers of suffering from diabetes (Stanley, Shah & Essop, 2009). However, the studies acknowledge that additional calories found in sugar may cause obesity, which may lead to a person developing diabetes. Some studies show that a person who consumes refined sugar is at risk of developing diabetes relative to an individual who consumes fibre. Stanley et al. (2009) alleged that sugar-sweetened drinks increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. According to Stanley et al. (2009), sugar-sweetened drinks amplify dietary glycemic load, causing irritation and insulin resistance. They alleged that insulin resistance exposes a person to diabetes.

Cardiovascular Disease

Enquiries in animals have proposed that constant intake of refined sugar can cause cardiovascular problems. Some nutritionists allege that chronic consumption of refined fructose raises the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. Besides, they allege that a change of diet from food rich in fibre to food with high-carbohydrate affects cardiac performance. Research shows that junk food contains high level of glycemic load (Stanley et al., 2009). That is why the majority of people who consume junk food are overweight. Besides, such people are vulnerable to coronary heart disease. Nutritionists associate persistent eating of added sugars with numerous factors that raise cardiovascular disease threats amongst youths and adults. Apart from cardiovascular disease, added sugars are said to cause Alzheimer’s disease. However, research is underway to determine if intake of sugar contributes to cognitive decline.

Conclusion

Fruits and vegetables contain sugar. Hence, it is hard for people to avoid sugar in their diet. However, they can regulate the amount of sugar they consume by avoiding sugary foods. Even though, sugar is one of the sources of energy, excessive consumption of sugar may expose one to a number of diseases. The diseases include diabetes, obesity, and coronary heart disease. Hence, it is imperative to minimise the amount of sugar intake.

References

Chiavaroli, L., Ha, V., De Souza, R., Kendall, C., & Sievenpiper, J. (2014). Fructose in obesity and cognitive decline: Is it the fructose or the excess energy? Nutrition Journal, 13(1), 27-36.

Lakhan, S., & Kirchgessner, A. (2013). The emerging role of dietary fructose in obesity and cognitive decline. Nutrition Journal, 12(1), 114-119.

Siri-Tarino, P., Sun, Q., Frank, H., & Krauss, R. (2010). Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(3), 502–509.

Stanley, W., Shah, K., & Essop, F. (2009). Does Junk Food Lead to Heart Failure? Importance of Dietary Macronutrient Composition in Hypertension. Hypertension, 54(6), 1209–1215.

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