The science of sugar

mere_immortalmere_immortal So tasty!Registered User regular
I've been using a food diary to track what I eat over the past few weeks, and have noticed that I tend to be quite high in sugars due to the amount of fruit I eat.

My assumption is that these sugars are better for you than the sugars from a big bar of chocolate, but is this correct? How do they affect my body compared to a big bag of sweets?

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited October 2012
    Sugars in fruit tend to be more complex than straight up granulated sugar mixed in with candy. This takes a bit more for your body to break down.

    That said a little sugar isn't going to hurt you so long as you're not a hulking behemoth, in which case I'd avoid anything with sugar as much as possible, even fruits. Don't make it the highlight of your diet.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal mad onlineRegistered User regular
    edited October 2012
    The sugars in fruit are more sophisticated, and often come with the obvious nutritional value of the fruit it comes with (as opposed to a coke or a kit-kat bar)

    Also, the fruit has fiber in it, which counter-acts some of the other proposed negative impacts of high sugar intake (like still feeling hungry and wanting to eat more candy)

    In Short: if you're going to eat sugar, the best way to get it is to get it from an actual fruit, and not in candy or juice drinks

    Jasconius on
  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    I've been using a food diary to track what I eat over the past few weeks, and have noticed that I tend to be quite high in sugars due to the amount of fruit I eat.

    My assumption is that these sugars are better for you than the sugars from a big bar of chocolate, but is this correct? How do they affect my body compared to a big bag of sweets?

    There is a fair bit of sugar in fruit, but when you eat the fruit you're also gaining elctrolytes, vitamins, antioxidants, lots of fibre, even a little protein. So you need to physically eat a lot more bulk to get that amount of sugar than you would of candy, and you get a good payload of other good stuff with it. In short, both an apple and a pirce of candy might have about about the same amount of sugar, but you can easily eat a lot more sugar by eating candy than you can by eating the fruit.

    If you like eating candy, then I'd suggest looking at good quality high-cocao (70%+) chocolate which not only has less sugar in it, but has a much stronger flavour so you don't need to eat nearly as much. I like to get the Lindt bars with hazlenuts or almonds in, which further reduce the sugar quotient (nuts are also quite nutritious) Plus chocolate itself (in moderate quantities) is actually quite good for you.

    Jasconius
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    It really depends on how much fruit you eat. A few servings a day is likely fine as long as it is actual fruit and not juice, which is still better than, say, Coke.

    Everyone is going to tell you something different on this front, though. What I've found is that unless you are a diabetic or have some other problem with your metabolism, you can eat most things in moderation and still be a healthy person, especially if you're getting exercise.

    I've also found that when I stay away from more heavily processed foods in general, I feel better. This holds true here: I eat lots of fruit, I feel good; I drink lots of 100% fruit juice... well.. I just go easy on the juice these days.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • mere_immortalmere_immortal So tasty!Registered User regular
    Thanks for the replies guys. It's almost all bananas and apples/oranges I eat, noticed that the juices and smoothies seem to have a lot more sugar content than their component parts so hardly ever drink them anymore.

    It's also not so much as finding a replacement for chocolate (although I am looking at the lindt bars now) but having an understanding of food and it's component parts makes it easier to find an intake that works for me.

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  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Lindt is a good suggestion. Their Equador dark chocolate is very nice, and one of the few dark chocolates I like.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • MaydayMayday Cutting edge goblin tech Registered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    Sugars in fruit tend to be more complex than straight up granulated sugar mixed in with candy. This takes a bit more for your body to break down.

    ????

    Fructose and (rarely) glucose, found in fruit, are the most basic sugars, monosaccharides.
    Sucrose, found in candy, is a disaccharide (composed of fructose and glucose).

    In other words, exactly the opposite of what bowen said.

  • BarrakkethBarrakketh Registered User regular
    ceres wrote: »
    Lindt is a good suggestion. Their Equador dark chocolate is very nice, and one of the few dark chocolates I like.
    I'm fond of Ghirardelli's Midnight Reverie (86% cacao), but if someone is used to sweet chocolates they might find it to be a bit too dark.

    Rollers are red, chargers are blue....omae wa mou shindeiru
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Mayday wrote: »
    bowen wrote: »
    Sugars in fruit tend to be more complex than straight up granulated sugar mixed in with candy. This takes a bit more for your body to break down.

    ????

    Fructose and (rarely) glucose, found in fruit, are the most basic sugars, monosaccharides.
    Sucrose, found in candy, is a disaccharide (composed of fructose and glucose).

    In other words, exactly the opposite of what bowen said.

    This is true, by the way. But the fact that it comes with other good things stands.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    It appears sugars in candy is most often fructose (mixed with glucose generally), so, they're both monosaccharides. I guess they don't use table sugar too often in candy.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2012
    ...Yes... Fructose and glucose do this chemical bonding thingy to make sucrose, which is what we commonly think of as "sugar", or table sugar, or what have you. Which is what they use in candy, along with various other types of sugar. Table sugar is 50% fructose, in a way, just because it makes up half the molecule. Sucrose is a disaccharide. Fructose, a component of sucrose, is a monosaccharide.

    Man you need to stop talking chemistry in H/A. It is embarrassing to read.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    Darkewolfe
  • mere_immortalmere_immortal So tasty!Registered User regular
    So chemically what is happening to the sugar in fruit when it is digested and does it differ from candy sugar?

    Does it get turned in to some kind of energy straight away or stored for consumption later? My biology and chemistry are frighteningly weak so you'll probably need to explain this like I'm 5.

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    ceres wrote: »
    ...Yes... Fructose and glucose do this chemical bonding thingy to make sucrose, which is what we commonly think of as "sugar", or table sugar, or what have you. Which is what they use in candy, along with various other types of sugar. Table sugar is 50% fructose, in a way, just because it makes up half the molecule. Sucrose is a disaccharide. Fructose, a component of sucrose, is a monosaccharide.

    Man you need to stop talking chemistry in H/A. It is embarrassing to read.

    And I had meant that as "No it is not chemically bonded to form sucrose or sugar." Unless you had assumed I meant HFCS or something, which I suppose is chemically similar to sucrose.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited October 2012
    Fructose vs sucrose metabolism. The big takeaway is fructose is significantly lower in GI (Glycemic Index), which means it has a less immediate affect to blood sugar (glucose) levels.

    Eating a peach is better than eating the equivalent amount of hard candy because you won't as much of a "sugar high" and you'll be satisfied longer.

    That said, if your family has history of diabetes or heart disease you should control sugar intake, regardless of source (sucrose, HFCS, or fructose).

    Edit: I accidently a word.

    Djeet on
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2012
    Fructose ("fruit" sugar) and glucose are digested differently, through different processes and in different parts of the body. Most carbohydrates break down to lots and lots of glucose, and through a rather complicated process that I was forced to study in biochem, you get energy. Fructose is digested in a different complicated process that is.. not as good for you, and from what little I've read about that specifically mostly ends up as fat in the liver. A moderate (1-2 servings) amount of fruit in a day is considered okay because fruit has lots of other things that are good, especially things like bananas and oranges, but this is why people sometimes go so far out of their way to avoid extra fructose, like the copious amounts of high-fructose corn syrup you find in processed foods, because the amount you can get that way is NOT healthy or normal.

    Well, that's why people who understand it go out of their way. Some people just go out of their way because it's the current bogeyman. :P

    edit: Well Djeet and I just said very different things. Although I would argue that you feel satisfied longer with fruit because it's actually food that physically fills you, and a hard candy is a hard candy that dissolves to nothing.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    bowen
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    But ceres, what it's derived from natural corn and it should be just as healthy as fruits because the commercials say so.

    I once found HFCS in some store brand dried fruit. :(

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Yeah, that's disgusting. I've found it in processed meat. You find it in foods it really has no business being in.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    ... not a chat thread... but meat? What? Like a glazed prepacked deli meat or something?

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    As a source of energy, the chocolate bar is "better" because it actually has glucose, and you have a metabolic need for glucose.

    Sugar metabolism is rather complex. What are you trying to figure out?

  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    I forget what brand it was, and it was a pre-packed cold cut, but it wasn't one of the ones where you'd expect there to be sugar. I think it was oven-roasted turkey or something.

    To bring it back, though, that's where you have to look out for fructose. It's not a small amount of fruit that's the problem, it's the fact that the shit just sneaks into your diet in ways you would never be able to realize unless you're an avid label-reader like me (started when I started keeping kosher and that's when I really noticed), in amounts that are way above what your liver will healthfully process. It's not the fact that you have it at all, it's the excess.

    Also note that this is less something you have to worry about if you live in Europe, from what I understand.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • AftyAfty Registered User regular
    If you are interested in the Science behind sugar (especially in soft drinks) I would suggest this video.

    Sugar the bitter truth (youtube)

    It's quite long (an hour and a half) but I think it's worth it.

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Probably because sliced meat isn't injected with syrup to make it taste better.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Afty wrote: »
    If you are interested in the Science behind sugar (especially in soft drinks) I would suggest this video.

    Sugar the bitter truth (youtube)

    It's quite long (an hour and a half) but I think it's worth it.

    This is a very good video, and there's a short (10-minute) version if that's a little more time than you want to spend thinking about it.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • LadyDustBunnyLadyDustBunny Registered User regular
    Fruit is great and way better than fruit juice, candy, etc (everyone's mentioned things in this category). I would just recommend that you NOT only eat fruit in the mornings (as breakfast). Only because the sugars will affect your energy and mood and could cause some "crashing" or mood swings. You can have fruit WITH your breakfast of a protein, healthy fats, and carbs (veggies) and you'll be fine.

    If you have any sort of insulin resistance or are obese, I would not drink fruit smoothies or eat a whole bunch of fruit in one sitting. The fructose must be processed by your liver and if you have issues with your liver (as mentioned above), it will really put a strain on it. (source: It Starts with Food, by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig).

    sidenote: processed foods are made my companies, who want to make money. These foods are engineered to make you crave more of it, therefore, you buy more. You are an animal (when you break everything down) and your body is not meant to be able to process laboratory foods. This means, it is doing more harm to you than anything possibly good.



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  • mere_immortalmere_immortal So tasty!Registered User regular
    edited October 2012
    Djeet wrote: »
    As a source of energy, the chocolate bar is "better" because it actually has glucose, and you have a metabolic need for glucose.

    Sugar metabolism is rather complex. What are you trying to figure out?

    Nothing in particular, just a greater understanding of biological processes, which I realise is a horrendously deep rabbit hole that you could fall down for years. If anything I'll probably keep having my apple and banana every day, just wanted to make sure I wasn't taking in a large amount of sugar that would be counter active to the healthy eating I've been doing for the past few months.

    Also I am in the UK so I think HFCS is much more difficult to encounter over here. No family health issues either, so I think the take away is that it's fine to keep the fruits on as a snack but maybe switch em out for some nuts a few times a week.

    mere_immortal on
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  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Yeah all that stuff doesn't even apply to you then. HFCS is a largely American phenomenon as far as I can tell.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    bowen
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Every calorie either comes from sugar, protein or fat. Even flour and potatoes which you don't think of as sugar get turned into sugar by the digestion.

    The hardcore low-carb guys always pop into a thread like this and go on a rant saying you should give up all sugar, even from fruit, but I don't have much sympathy for this when applied to someone who is not actually on a low-carb diet.

    When the newspapers tell us we should be eating less sugar, they are talking about Coca Cola and chocolate, even orange juice - not whole oranges. The amount of sugar in a coke dwarfs anything you could intake from eating oranges. With an orange, you need to peel and segment and take out the little pips. It takes time. You need to go wash off the sticky juice. You don't eat more than a couple. But you can just slug down a large coke in an instant and barely notice it. You can be sure that people with health problems from too much sugar got it from processed sugars, not natural fruits, even if the fructose in them are chemically identical.

  • AftyAfty Registered User regular
    HFCS is banned here in the UK as far as I am aware. or at least very strictly regulated.

  • LadyDustBunnyLadyDustBunny Registered User regular
    Also, I'm glad that you're interested in how these foods affect your body.

    I've been reading/listening to podcasts, etc all about how foods affect not just weight, but our moods and hormones. Really interesting stuff. When I've tried all of these suggestions out, it has made a huge difference in my energy levels on a daily basis.

    Recommended readings:
    It Starts with Food - Dallas & Melissa Hartwig (whole9life.com)
    Practical Paleo - Diane Sanfillipo (www.balancedbites.com)
    The Paleo Solution- Robb Wolf (robbwolf.com)

    I hope this all helps! :)

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  • Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    edited October 2012
    ceres wrote: »
    Yeah all that stuff doesn't even apply to you then. HFCS is a largely American phenomenon as far as I can tell.

    The op specifically asked about the science so I'll ask about HFCS even though it isn't necessarily relevant to those outside the US who don't have a giant corn subsidy. I thought the whole HFCS is worse for you than other sugars was a myth. Mostly because while there is a difference between how you digest fructose and glucose, high-fructose corn syrup is actually a misnomer. There's about the same amount of fructose in HFCS as there is in sucrose. Sucrose has 50% fructose and 50% glucose once you break it apart; which happens pretty readily. While HFCS has 42-55% fructose and 40-45% glucose; giving about the same amounts of fructose and glucose. Wikipedia seems to agree about HFCS not being worse than sucrose, but I'm curious if I am missing something.

    Jebus314 on
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  • DaenrisDaenris Registered User regular
    There have I believe been a few research studies showing that rats fed a diet of HFCS end up with more health problems than those on a diet of sucrose. Here is one: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20219526 though I'm not at work at the moment so I'm only basing that on the abstract.

    Here's a paper showing that acute HFCS consumption led to higher blood pressure than sucrose sweetened drinks: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22152650

    So there are differences. I think the bigger problem is the massive overuse of the stuff in the US. As was pointed out above, even some sliced deli meats contain HFCS. The fact that corn is extremely subsidized leads to HFCS being extremely cheap, and so it has been incorporated into a huge variety of products so if you don't pay attention you could be consuming it on pretty much all fronts. In moderation, I seriously doubt it has any distinguishing adverse effects compared to sucrose.

  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    Sucrose and the main formulation of HFCS are very similar in the ratios of glucose to fructose. The difference mainly being that HFCS is an admixture of 2 monosaccharides (glucose and fructose), while Sucrose is a disaccharide that needs to be metabolized into its constituent parts (glucose and fructose).

  • GdiguyGdiguy San Diego, CARegistered User regular
    edited October 2012
    Daenris wrote: »
    There have I believe been a few research studies showing that rats fed a diet of HFCS end up with more health problems than those on a diet of sucrose. Here is one: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20219526 though I'm not at work at the moment so I'm only basing that on the abstract.

    Here's a paper showing that acute HFCS consumption led to higher blood pressure than sucrose sweetened drinks: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22152650

    So there are differences. I think the bigger problem is the massive overuse of the stuff in the US. As was pointed out above, even some sliced deli meats contain HFCS. The fact that corn is extremely subsidized leads to HFCS being extremely cheap, and so it has been incorporated into a huge variety of products so if you don't pay attention you could be consuming it on pretty much all fronts. In moderation, I seriously doubt it has any distinguishing adverse effects compared to sucrose.

    Yeah the 'HFCS is worse than sugar' debate is somewhat of a distraction, and the science is still pretty unsettled.. but it's (either due to misunderstanding, or deliberate creation of a strawman argument, depending on your opinion) really a co-option of the "HFCS and sugar are both bad for you and are inappropriately used in a ton of processed foods" argument, which is really the issue. There's a ton of foods that really have no need for sugar in them, but because HFCS is so cheap and it makes things taste sweeter (which makes them sell better), you now have higher levels of sugar/HFCS in things like breads, meats, etc that really don't need them at all. Something like Coke doesn't magically get orders of magnitude healthier when you buy the version that's made with sugar.

    Gdiguy on
  • ThroThro [email protected] Registered User regular
    V1m wrote: »
    There is a fair bit of sugar in fruit, but when you eat the fruit you're also gaining elctrolytes, vitamins, antioxidants, lots of fibre, even a little protein.
    Most of this is true, however:
    Unless you're sick or dehydrated, you don't need to go out of your way to add extra electrolytes to your diet. Antioxidants aren't useful at all to get from your diet: they're often though of as healthy because many very healthy foods (which are healthy for other reasons) contain them. However, just because a food has antioxidants does not make it healthy, such as:
    V1m wrote: »
    Plus chocolate itself (in moderate quantities) is actually quite good for you.
    It's not better for you than eating the same amount of calories from say, grapes. I'm not saying you shouldn't ever eat chocolate, just don't bother pretending it's good for you.
    Thanks for the replies guys. It's almost all bananas and apples/oranges I eat, noticed that the juices and smoothies seem to have a lot more sugar content than their component parts so hardly ever drink them anymore.
    Juices are tricky. Some, even when they say they aren't made from concentrate, or are "100%" juice, aren't the same ratio of water to sugar as the liquid actually coming out of the orange. Many juice makers take the orange juice and remove water from it, effectivly increasing the sugar per ounce.
    If you are buying smoothies, it's very likely that whoever makes them is adding sugar (or honey). While delicious, this is where the extra sugar is coming from. Also many use a yogurt base, which can be quite sweet depending on the yogurt. If you have a blender you can make your own and control how much extra sugar goes in.

    And yes, unless you are grossly overweight or on a very calorie restricted diet, fruit is a fairly healthy choice, as long as it's just part of your overall diet.

  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    HFCS as found in drinks and things is not actually 50/50. It's actually 55/42 according to wikipedia, with the rest being water. Not a huge difference.

    But wikipedia also notes that the fructose and glucose are found in HFCS as monosaccharides, where sucrose is a dissaccharide. A seemingly stupidly small difference like the presence or absence of a chemical bond between the two molecules can make the world of difference to how your body treats the components, and it means that no matter what you want to think about them, sucrose and HFCS are NOT the same thing.

    For example, one of the first things your body does in glucose-metabolism (the mechanism for energy-get) when it gets hold of a glucose molecule is tag it with a phosphate in a certain place. It then turns the glucose-phosphate into a fructose-phosphate via magic and crams another another phosphate onto the damn thing before tearing it up for parts. If you introduce a fructose into the process as a standalone molecule, you cannot expect your body to pick it up where that fructose-phosphate would have left off. It's not been tagged with the phosphate, the enzymes don't know what to do with it, and it gets sent somewhere else.

    That's not all there is to it; it's a really complicated process and I oversimplify quite a bit, but it shows that your body really treats everything it gets differently depending on how it's organized, which can make the comparisons complicated. Something simple like having a disaccharide vs. two monosaccarides means that your metabolism has to do extra things to grab that glucose and make it something useful, and that's why the bonded form of fructose found in sucrose and other sugars and the free form may not be entirely comparable as far as what they do in your system.

    That's not to say that anyone should go eating or drinking sucrose in excess either, but to say "eh, they both have glucose and fructose so they're essentially the same" can be very misleading. It's something I'd like to read more about someday, but chances are when that happens I'll be looking primarily at what the European scientists have to say on the matter.

    Thro is also spot-on about the problem with juice.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Annnd I just realized that is all pretty off-topic since the OP already said he's in the UK. That in mind, let's keep it to fruit. For an in-depth discusssion about HFCS you can probably start something in D&D.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • mere_immortalmere_immortal So tasty!Registered User regular
    I think I've got all the answers I wanted plus a bit more to look into with the videos and podcasts/reading.

    Thanks dudes!

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