Facts on sugars and health based on the latest scientific evidence.
Sugar is natural
Sugars are a type of carbohydrate made by plants. Plants contain varying amounts of different sugars eg glucose, fructose, sucrose. Sucrose is made up of glucose and fructose. It is the most abundant sugar in plants. Sugar beet (a vegetable) and sugar cane (a grass) naturally contain particularly large amounts of sucrose.
The sugar that we add to tea and coffee and use in baking is almost pure sucrose. Sucrose is sometimes called 'table sugar' or simply 'sugar'. Table sugar contains no artificial preservatives, colourings or any other additives. The sucrose that we add to tea and coffee is exactly the same as the sucrose found in fruit and vegetables, and is used by the body in exactly the same ways.
Active people use sugar as a fuel
Like all carbohydrates, sugar provides energy. Carbohydrate is the preferred fuel for working muscles. Not eating enough carbohydrate makes it difficult to be physically active and can make us feel sluggish.
People who are very active (eg athletes, football players) have particularly high carbohydrate requirements. It is difficult for very active people to meet their carbohydrate needs without eating sugar. Starchy foods such as bread and potatoes are too bulky to be eaten in very large quantities, especially prior to exercising. Including sugary snacks and drinks in the diet helps active people to maximise their carbohydrate intake.
Carbohydrate is stored in muscles in the form of glycogen. The more glycogen people have stored in their muscles, the longer they can exercise before feeling tired. Many athletes consume a carbohydrate snack or drink during heavy exercise to delay fatigue. It is important to replenish carbohydrate stores soon after exercise. Most people can't manage a heavy starchy meal immediately after exercise, but having a soft drink or eating a sugary snack, can start to refill carbohydrate stores straight away.
Sugar can be included in a slimming diet
Despite the array of dietary regimes available, success in losing weight and maintaining weight loss is rarely achieved.
Nutrition experts currently recommend being physically active, cutting back on fat and consuming a variety of fruit and vegetables as the best strategy for weight loss. One of the first items some dieters remove from their diet is sugar. Research, however, shows that people can continue to enjoy some sugary foods and still lose weight.
People are more likely to stick to a diet if they enjoy the foods that they eat. Including a little of what they fancy in the form of sugary foods can make it easier to stick with weight loss advice in the long-term. All foods can be enjoyed in moderation.