Mythbusters: Does a spoonful of sugar help the medicine go down?

Ainé Wilcox analyses the sugar-free diet

31st October 2016

Imagine this, you’re dressed to the nines as the spookiest skeleton in town. You have been waiting exactly 365 days to get your treat on yet here’s the trick you’ve all but forgotten. You’re on a sugar free diet! So while everyone else is stuffing their faces with sweets you might as well have been Bugs Bunny for Halloween if the carrot you are chomping on is anything to go by. But here is the question, do sugar free diets actually work?

Well if by ‘work’ you mean help improve diet, aid weight loss and boost energy levels then the answer would quite simply be yes. But there is a little more to it than that. In actual fact the body does need sugar; energy in our body comes from the breakdown of glucose (a sugar) in our cells. However, this does not necessarily need to be obtained directly from sweet foods. Natural sugars are found in almost any consumables and surprisingly even carbohydrates are made from sugars.

Now it may seem as though there is no such thing as a sugar free diet if most foods contain these natural sugars. Especially when the recommended daily sugar intake is 38g for men and 25g for women. Yet what most people mean by “a sugar free diet” is cutting out the added sugars that occur largely in processed foods. And it might just be with good reason, according to a BBC Health article published in 2015, people between the ages of 18-26 are consuming an added intake of 58.8g of sugar per day. That is 21.5Kg of sugar a year on top of the recommended intake. The equivalent to 596 cans of coke too many. This can lead to serious health risks associated with weight gain and poor diet, including an increased risk of heart disease. So maybe a spoonful of sugar won’t help the medicine go down after all.

What most people mean by “a sugar free diet” is cutting out the added sugars that occur largely in processed foods”

The aim then of a sugar free diet is to obtain our daily sugar intake from sources where it occurs naturally. Meaning not so shockingly, your Mum has been right all along fruit really is a great alternative sugar source. In the right quantities it not only provides fructose but also a variety of vitamins and nutrients that are brilliant for your insides.

It is clear that a sugar free diet is going to work if you are cutting out the cakes (and everything else that brings joy). The bottom line therefore is this, a sugar free diet is going to do you all kinds of good but only as long as you stick to it and get the sugar you need from elsewhere. But I say maybe let yourself have a cheat day on the 31st.

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