9

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Is sugar really as bad as it's made out to be?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 15, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Aside from the odd (in more ways than one) Ray Peat disciple, paleo universally shuns sugar - doesn't matter what kind - white, brown, raw, honey, glucose, fructose, etc... You have anti-sugar crusaders like Taubes out there, you have anti-fructose crusaders like Lustig as well. Reading Chris Kresser's take on fructose this morning and it's so level-headed (unlike the anti-sugar crowd). Or has Chris missed something essential?

Is there any reason to shun sugar so strongly when consuming an energy-neutral (maintenance) diet?

I personally cannot find fault with the half-teaspoon of sugar in my morning coffee, or a piece of some dessert sweetened with sugar that doesn't push me into energy excess. I'm sure there are those who think I'm breaking one of the 7 deadly paleo sins.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Agreed "caloric excess" is something that no-one can directly measure or control- and I don't mean due to limited willpower, I mean that no-one can measure calories sufficiently accurately over the long term. You might as well say "is x ok so long as you don't end up gaining weight?"- sometimes a valid question, but not very often given that weight gain is the #1 health ill.

A3c56c85290f748410a6f340ddd552b3

(321)

on January 07, 2013
at 09:06 PM

Despite Kresser's post, I have heard both him and Robb state that when healing the gut, sugar is actually an irritant and will hinder progress. But I haven't seen that backed up with research. Anyone have that kind of data?

Medium avatar

(2338)

on June 24, 2012
at 03:25 PM

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22641965 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22338036 and if you look at the first sentence of my answer... "i agree i don't think it's that bad if you are mindful of what you are eating and understand the consequence of overeating it"

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 24, 2012
at 12:42 PM

I got that Matt, just don't see what's so bizarre haha :D.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 24, 2012
at 12:41 PM

You get low carb flu because the body adjusts itself to fat metabolism. How does that imply that sugar is addictive? Addictive is when you just can't get enough of it at all, you just have to take in more and more and more. For me, eating more sugar removes cravings. I don't want to generalize this though, you might be right. Even if it is addictive that doesn't mean it's bad.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on June 21, 2012
at 08:11 AM

I went vegan for a short period a few years ago. Felt some crappy flu like symptoms. Hmmm perhaps I'm addicted to butter and eggs.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 16, 2012
at 02:44 PM

Insulin spikes are proportional to carbohydrate consumed. And it's not even that insulin spikes are bad, that's the body's biochemical machinery in action.

Eea6a68f5a7190d13c60e1c72417a581

(1376)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:43 AM

Haha, my kid does crave bread and butter, it's like a special treat that only grandmas have at their house.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on June 15, 2012
at 07:44 PM

I said they are worse than sugar, not that folks necessarily need to avoid casein like I do. I see the argument give by the raw milk crowd as plausible; I just don't like having my sinuses filled with mucous.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 15, 2012
at 06:19 PM

I put all of these in the same camp, ok in moderation and if well tolerated.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 15, 2012
at 06:18 PM

Odd as in occasional and odd as bizarre, Korion. :)

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on June 15, 2012
at 05:29 PM

I don’t think it is a big deal as long as it doesn’t encourage you to eat too much (sweetness being the problem more than sugar per se). I am leery about how modern children are conditioned to have such a sweet-tooth.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on June 15, 2012
at 04:11 PM

(BTW, I realize these items also contain fat and wheat, usually. But they are not craving bread and/or butter. And let's face it - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the standard for a healthy lunch. With chips and a cookie. And an apple that is rarely eaten. My wife is a K-6 teacher and you would not beleive what shows up in these lunches.)

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on June 15, 2012
at 04:05 PM

Yes, yes, yes and yes! Part of the problem (as I see it) is that sugar is the world our children swim in. We are training them to be sugar-aholics. Cookies or ice cream after every church/school event. Team parents bringing donuts/cupcakes for kids between and after games. Constant need for treats. And don't get me started on the need to celebrate every friggin' minor accomplishment. Graduation ceremony for kindergarten? Puh-lease!

Medium avatar

(2338)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:58 PM

i think it's pretty well known that sugar is in fact addictive, why do you think some people go through the low carb flu? i know for me at least when i eat any refined sugar i find myself being drawn back for more.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:57 PM

A teaspoon in your coffee is fine - Mark Sisson does it - and it may be healthier than the artificial alternatives. But sugar has no nutritive value other than calories. Best not to get 25% of your energy from it. On the other hand, diabetics, obese, insulin resistant types may be another story...

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:52 PM

Just because you crave it doesn't mean it's addictive. I've craved sugar in the past many times, right now I'd rather eat some whole fruit as plain sugar is extremely boring.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:46 PM

*"Aside from the odd (in more ways than one) Ray Peat disciple"* Hahaha what's that supposed to mean man. I don't have a decent answer aside from the fact that I can't drink milk without sugar or I get bumps on my arms and hands.

5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:41 PM

I don't see how casein in milk gets in there. If you don't tolerate casein, you're the problem, not the milk.

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9 Answers

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10
246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21430)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:51 PM

I think much of the sugar demonization has to do with the negative connotations of the sheer excess of it in a standard daily diet, and the impact that has on the folks who have metabolic issues (and gut issues to a lesser extent).

I don't hate sugar. I just don't think it's a very healthy choice for someone who is sick. I also don't believe it's smart to get a significant portion of daily calories from it, in the form of soft drinks, condiments, "low-fat" and snack foods.

But applying the "is it paleo?" question here is not altogether relevant. There are many foods eaten amongst us that I just can't consider "Paleo" - rice, buckwheat, refined sugar, even my beloved coffee. If people want to eat these foods while mostly eating paleo, cool - 80/20 and whatnot... but don't spit on a cupcake and call it frosting, those foods are not really paleo, and if I were suggesting Paleo to someone who had an issue with obesity or severe gut issues, I would suggest zero consumption of those until a basic, 1.0/2.0 Paleo diet had been adhered to long enough to see a significant positive change in their condition.

But honestly, I think for many of us long-timers, the Paleo-stringency ship has sailed, and most of us have incorporated some foods back into our diet that were previously verboten.

Mostly I agree with August's statement - keep it reasonable, there are worse things you can do to your body.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on June 15, 2012
at 04:05 PM

Yes, yes, yes and yes! Part of the problem (as I see it) is that sugar is the world our children swim in. We are training them to be sugar-aholics. Cookies or ice cream after every church/school event. Team parents bringing donuts/cupcakes for kids between and after games. Constant need for treats. And don't get me started on the need to celebrate every friggin' minor accomplishment. Graduation ceremony for kindergarten? Puh-lease!

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on June 15, 2012
at 04:11 PM

(BTW, I realize these items also contain fat and wheat, usually. But they are not craving bread and/or butter. And let's face it - a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the standard for a healthy lunch. With chips and a cookie. And an apple that is rarely eaten. My wife is a K-6 teacher and you would not beleive what shows up in these lunches.)

Eea6a68f5a7190d13c60e1c72417a581

(1376)

on June 16, 2012
at 12:43 AM

Haha, my kid does crave bread and butter, it's like a special treat that only grandmas have at their house.

5
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:36 PM

Is sugar really as bad as it is made out to be? No. Is there and reason to shun sugar so strongly when consuming an energy neutral diet? No. Just keep the dose reasonable.
Wheat, soy, casein in milk- these are worse than sugar.

5e5ff249c9161b8cd96d7eff6043bc3a

(4713)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:41 PM

I don't see how casein in milk gets in there. If you don't tolerate casein, you're the problem, not the milk.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on June 15, 2012
at 07:44 PM

I said they are worse than sugar, not that folks necessarily need to avoid casein like I do. I see the argument give by the raw milk crowd as plausible; I just don't like having my sinuses filled with mucous.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 15, 2012
at 06:19 PM

I put all of these in the same camp, ok in moderation and if well tolerated.

4
B514acafd0a6cc251279b6cb21b48941

on June 15, 2012
at 05:12 PM

Refined (Or concentrated such as maple syrup or honey) sugar will put you at risk of tooth decay and spike your insulin

Sugar on it's own is not as horrible as it's been made out to be. Yes, it spikes your insulin levels and leads to crashes and cravings. The real problem is in processed sugars. Sugar cane in it's natural form contains all of the vitamins and minerals necessary for the body to digest it. Once it's processed and those minerals are stripped away, it still has to be digested. However, since the necessary elements no longer exist in the sugar itself, the body must pull them from other sources. Therefore, it pulls calcium, potassium and magnesium from your teeth and bones, weakening them from the inside. (which is why people who brush diligently twice a day can still have teeth problems.)

Stick to natural sugar and keep it in moderation.

2
2e5dc29c61f97d335ffb990508424719

on June 15, 2012
at 03:58 PM

Refined (Or concentrated such as maple syrup or honey) sugar will put you at risk of tooth decay and spike your insulin. This leads to appetite stimulation. As far as your teeth are concerned would you rinse with warm sugar water?
If you can maintain good glycemic control a little sugar now and then is not much of a problem. I woud not put it in my coffee every day. Learn to like it black.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 16, 2012
at 02:44 PM

Insulin spikes are proportional to carbohydrate consumed. And it's not even that insulin spikes are bad, that's the body's biochemical machinery in action.

2
B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:55 PM

I've said this before, but "excess calories" is as meaningful as "eat everything in moderation".

In my opinion sugar is fine when it does not replace nutrient-dense foods, but is used as a therapeutic addition to a diet.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Agreed "caloric excess" is something that no-one can directly measure or control- and I don't mean due to limited willpower, I mean that no-one can measure calories sufficiently accurately over the long term. You might as well say "is x ok so long as you don't end up gaining weight?"- sometimes a valid question, but not very often given that weight gain is the #1 health ill.

1
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on June 15, 2012
at 07:08 PM

Given how much honey the Hadza & other H/G tribes eat, I am not too bothered.

Sucrose works for me. I consume 4-5 teaspoons of sugar in tea over a day, as well as whatever is in my 54% dark chocolate. I keep it to ~15 gm of sugar per meal and always eat it with protein & fat, so no problem with insulin spikes.

(I don't eat much fruit due to FODMAPS intolerance at the moment.)

1
Medium avatar

(2338)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:46 PM

i agree i don't think it's that bad if you are mindful of what you are eating and can understand the consequence of overeating it. sugar is a very very addictive substance and hard for a lot of people to consume in moderation.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:52 PM

Just because you crave it doesn't mean it's addictive. I've craved sugar in the past many times, right now I'd rather eat some whole fruit as plain sugar is extremely boring.

Medium avatar

(2338)

on June 15, 2012
at 03:58 PM

i think it's pretty well known that sugar is in fact addictive, why do you think some people go through the low carb flu? i know for me at least when i eat any refined sugar i find myself being drawn back for more.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on June 21, 2012
at 08:11 AM

I went vegan for a short period a few years ago. Felt some crappy flu like symptoms. Hmmm perhaps I'm addicted to butter and eggs.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 24, 2012
at 12:41 PM

You get low carb flu because the body adjusts itself to fat metabolism. How does that imply that sugar is addictive? Addictive is when you just can't get enough of it at all, you just have to take in more and more and more. For me, eating more sugar removes cravings. I don't want to generalize this though, you might be right. Even if it is addictive that doesn't mean it's bad.

Medium avatar

(2338)

on June 24, 2012
at 03:25 PM

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22641965 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22338036 and if you look at the first sentence of my answer... "i agree i don't think it's that bad if you are mindful of what you are eating and understand the consequence of overeating it"

0
576d90e5671ff46ef7fc446219032e5b

(8)

on November 10, 2012
at 06:16 PM

Just thinking of my all time favorite meal........a extra large sweet potato, couple tablespoons of butter, as much brown surgar as i can get on it and sea salt. This mass of mixed carbs and fat is most always placed next to a 12oz rib-eye medium rare steak. sometimes peaches and cream for dessert.

I understand carbs through my senses, not whats written about them.

0
Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

on June 15, 2012
at 04:26 PM

For me it is, for you maybe not. I am not a purist like that, I don't want to be all, "You are an evil person, succumbing to satan's powdery, sweet trap." If you have no bad effects from small amounts of sugar, by all means, have some.

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