“Improving knowledge and understanding about the contributions of sugar and other carbohydrates to a healthy balanced diet.”
Our Press Room brings you the latest scientific thinking on carbohydrate and health issues.
In this section you will find a huge array of information concerning health, nutrition and exercise – aimed at the media in general, and journalists in particular.
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Is it possible to be allergic to sugar?
It is not possible to be allergic to sugar. This is a good thing because if someone were allergic to sugar, they would be unable to eat a huge number of foods, including most fruit and vegetables!
Some alternative/complementary medicine practitioners ‘diagnose’ an allergy to sugar using tests that may appear scientific but which in fact have no scientific basis whatsoever. Food allergies of any kind should only be diagnosed by properly trained medical staff.
- For more information on allergies, go to the British Allergy Foundation’s web site.
But isn’t sugar just ’empty calories’? If I eat a lot of sugar, how will I get enough vitamins and minerals?
People rarely eat sugar on its own. Adding sugar to foods improves their taste and increases the range of foods that people will eat. For example, without sugar many breakfast cereals, which provide important vitamins, minerals and fibre, would be less palatable.
Surveys have shown that vitamin and mineral intakes are rarely lower – in fact, they are often higher – in people who eat the most sugar. In any case, most people in the UK are consuming more than enough vitamins and minerals. Those who are not tend to be people who do not eat enough food overall, or who do not have a sufficiently varied diet.
Does eating too much sugar cause hyperactivity in children?
In the 1970s it was suggested that hyperactivity in children (also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD) was caused by eating too much sugar. Detailed studies, however, have concluded that there is no link between sugar consumption and hyperactivity or any other type of ‘bad behaviour’ or learning difficulties. Children may become over-excited on occasions where lots of sugary foods are eaten (eg birthday parties) but this is a consequence of the situation, not their sugar intake. Sugar is a normal part of a healthy diet and it is not possible to be ‘allergic’, ‘intolerant’ or ‘sensitive’ to sugar.
Will eating sugar, and other carbohydrates, give me ‘Syndrome X’ or the Metabolic Syndrome?
Eating sugar or other carbohydrates will not give you ‘Syndrome X’. It is caused, in the majority of people, by over-eating and an unbalanced diet, especially too much saturated fat, and by not getting enough exercise.
‘Syndrome X’, or the metabolic syndrome as it is also called, is the term applied to a collection of abnormalities in body function. These include resistance to the action of the hormone insulin, fat accumulated around the waist (central obesity) and increases in other risk factors for coronary heart disease development, for example, increased levels of fats in the bloodstream and raised blood pressure. Although a number of these abnormalities will be present in affected patients, the same symptoms may not be present in everyone, for example not all patients will have insulin resistance.
Taking regular exercise, such as brisk walking, and consuming a healthy balanced diet, low in saturated fat, will improve your fitness levels and your general health, and help to prevent the development of this syndrome and its complications.
Won’t eating sugar make me fat?
Many people still mistakenly believe that sugar is fattening. Sugar is a carbohydrate. Eating plenty of carbohydrates and taking part in regular physical activity is the healthiest way to maintain a desirable body weight.
Sugar and weight gain
The scientific evidence does not support the commonly held belief that eating too much sugar is a cause of weight gain. In fact, it is high fat diets that are linked to obesity, not high carbohydrate (or high sugar) diets.
Overweight and obesity occur only when there is an imbalance between the amount of energy taken into the body, as food, and the amount the body needs for normal metabolism and for physical work. Body weight will increase whenever too much food energy is consumed and will decrease whenever the energy intake is less than needed. It has been shown that it is more difficult to overeat on a high carbohydrate diet, because carbohydrate-rich foods fill you up so you are likely to stop eating when you have had enough. High fat foods take much longer to fill you up so it is a lot easier to eat too many calories if your diet is high in fat. High fat foods are also the most concentrated form of energy.
It is also worth remembering that 1 gram of carbohydrate provides only 4 Calories whereas 1 gram of fat provides 9.