Sugar: The Real Deal

ByABC News
August 23, 2006, 4:09 PM

Aug. 23, 2006 — -- Sugar is in almost everything you eat, and is often the hidden culprit behind expanding waistlines and inflated dress sizes. But there are simple things you can do to become a smart consumer of the taboo sweet and avoid packing on extra pounds. Here are the facts about sugar, and some tips on how to get the "right" sugars and avoid the "wrong" ones.

Fact No. 1When you consume sugar regularly, you slow down the metabolism of fats, protein and carbohydrates. Sugars change how your adrenal glands produce the hormone cortisol. Cortisol regulates how your body metabolizes protein, fats and carbohydrates.

Fact No. 2Sugar draws out nutrients from the digestive system. Any of the various kinds of processed sugars have one thing in common: They do not contain nutrients. How can your body run when it does not have fuel? It can't, so digesting sugars leads to the leaching of important nutrients and antioxidants from your body.

Fact No. 3Sucrose, possibly the most famous sugar, is found in white cane sugar. It can be hidden in many dressings, toppings and canned goods but is also found in more obvious places: candies, cakes, molasses and syrups. Sucrose inhibits the immune system for six hours after it's consumed, leaving the body prone to infection and sickness. It's no wonder people fall ill during cookie-laden holidays.

Fact No. 4Bacteria and viruses thrive on sugar. It's their only source of energy. So consuming sweet snacks when you're sick can often make you feel worse.

Fact No. 5Your brain and body need sugar to run. The brain can only run on simple sugars like glucose. Glucose is the fundamental building block of all of the aforementioned sugars. When any type of carbohydrate or sugar -- from the complex sugars in a potato to the simple sugars in maple syrup -- is digested, it breaks down into glucose, a tiny compound the body absorbs easily for instant energy.

Despite all the downsides of sugar, here are some easy ways to satisfy that sweet tooth and still stay healthy.