Do you get fat from sugar? Nutritionist Clarifies Myths and Truth

Do you get fat from sugar? Nutritionist Clarifies Myths and Truth

Fruit sugar is not as useful as we think. Nutritionist Sara Ask sorts out some of the most common misconceptions about sugar and shares guidelines if you want to cut down on your consumption.

In the world we live in now, we also have pretty free access to delicious things. It's like living in a sweet jungle for which we are not at all adapted.

Sugar goes by many different names, and sometimes it is hard to tell that it is sweetening. We list the ones you may encounter when you read the table of contents on products.

Agave syrup 
Erythriol (Sukrin)
Brown sugar
Icing sugar
Fructose, fruit sugar
Fructose-glucose syrup
Glucose syrup
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Invert sugar, invert sugar syrup
Coconut Sugar
Maple syrup
Corn Syrup
Malt Syrup
Maltitol/maltitol syrup
Molasses, molasses
Palm sugar
Raw sugar
Cane sugar
Sorbitol/sorbitol syrup
Starch syrup, starch fruit syrup
Vanilla sugar, vanilla sugar
Xylitol (birch sugar)

The love of man, especially of children, is not a new phenomenon. Our innate appetite for sweet flavors has been a way to ensure survival in times of starvation, but today this is a trait that seems to put it off for us. Few foods are as peeled as what we call sugar. It causes diabetes, makes us fat, and causes us to die prematurely. Sara Ask, a dietitian is in control of the research situation. With her help, we solve some of the common questions about sugar.

“Sugar is something that most people like very much, and what we like also has a tendency to become very charged,” says the dietician.


Sugar is a collective name for several different sugars, some of which are added and some naturally found in raw materials.

The most common variety we use to sweeten foods is sucrose, which consists of glucose and fructose.

Sucrose gives energy but contains no nutrition – such as vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

Do you get fat from sugar?

– What many seem to believe is that sugar has a magical fat-forming property or that sugar itself is almost a poison. But the research that exists today – a lot of research has been done on sugar – does not indicate that sugar in reasonable amounts is dangerous or that it has its own fat-forming property.

Sara Ask says that in studies, people have been given as much as half their energy needs covered by sugar, without having seen them go up in comparison with participants who receive a smaller amount.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. Some may have a diet that contains a lot of sugar without gaining a gram. That does not mean, however, that they eat healthily – the added sugar takes the place of nutritious foods. For others, a sugar-rich diet can increase daily caloric intake, which in turn can contribute to weight gain, explains Sara Ask.

– Sugar is a bit insidious because we think it is good, and it makes it difficult to eat a good deal of what you eat. In the world we live in now, we also have pretty free access to delicious things. It’s like living in a sweet jungle for which we are not at all adapted. Of course, it would have been more appropriate if we only thought that sugar was a bit good.

When it comes to calorie intake, sugary drinks such as soft drinks, light drinks, and juices seem to be able to play with the hunger feelings. The drinks contain energy, but usually do not give a sense of saturation.

Ash also points out that everyone has different genetic conditions when it comes to gaining weight.

But then a fatty liver? Studies are suggesting that fructose can cause fat formation in the liver, but it involves significant amounts of sugar. 

Are we eating more sugar today than it was 50 years ago?

Are we consuming more sugar today than before, say 50 years ago? If you listen to all the “in my time you got three harp putties and half a glass of raspberry soda on Saturday” stories, it is easy to get that impression. Another reason why it is easy to believe that we eat more sugar today is that the waist size has increased.

Looking at the statistics, however, sugar consumption has remained stable since the post-war period — about 37 kilos of sugar per person and year.

However, it can be seen that the sugar comes from other sources then and now, according to the Swedish Board of Agriculture. In the past, more fig bread, desserts, and jams were eaten, and today we consume more sugary drinks, sweets, and snacks.

Can you become addicted to sugar in the same way as alcohol?

Talking about being a sugar addict is something that has been talked about a lot in recent years, as is sugar detox. The latter means that you “detoxify” by removing things that also contain natural sugar – such as potatoes, carrots, and milk. But can you become addicted to sugar, just like alcohol and drugs?

– That is a big and uncertain question in itself. There is currently no consensus that you can become addicted to sugar. If you talk about sugar being a drug, you can say that all food that gives energy has a rewarding effect in the brain – but it’s not like a drug. 

If sugar is not a drug, why is it so difficult for many to let go of the wheat length of the job pouch or that chocolate bit at the checkout? The simple answer: Because it’s good! Most of us have an innate love for sugar, fat, and energy-rich foods. But for some, it’s more than just good: 

– You can see that some have a more complicated relationship to sugar or food in general – a kind of food addiction.

Although a piece of chocolate does not produce the same effect in the brain as heroin, our reward systems are variously sensitive to sugar, and there are genetic differences in how sugary we are. There are also psychological aspects to consider. For example, it is not uncommon to have an emotional eating behavior, where it has been learned that eating can deaf feelings of anxiety and anxiety. Here, you know that foods that contain sugar, but also fat and salt, are perceived as extra rewarding for many.

– If you think of a cookie dough that consisted of flour, salt, and butter, you would hardly believe it was interesting. When you add sugar, it suddenly becomes exciting. Similarly, one would not eat flour, sugar, and salt without fat. Sugar is one of the ingredients that most people think of adds a lot to the taste, explains Sara Ask.

For some, sugar can be very triggering, lead to unhealthy eating habits, and cause anxiety.

Still, according to Sara Ask, zero tolerance for sugar is not a path everyone needs to hike:

– Sometimes you eat for reasons other than hunger, and some people find it harder to limit themselves. I respect that there may be people who actually need to cut out sugar altogether, but for the large mass, it is unfortunate if you think that is how you should eat to live a healthy life.

Is honey better than white sugar?

If you google recipes for pastries and throw in a “useful” in the search string, it is not uncommon for recipes to appear where white powdered sugar has been replaced with agave syrup, honey, coconut sugar, or dates. But is it more useful than regular sugar?

It depends on how you mean, explains Sara Ask:

– You fool yourself a little there. What is positive about, for example, dried fruit is that it contains minerals, vitamins, and fibers that non-sugar sugar does not. But they are all forms of concentrated sugar – whether you talk about regular sugar, dates or coconut sugar – and the body makes no difference where the sugar comes from. The composition may look a little different, for example, the other sweeteners contain more fructose and less glucose, but that does not mean that it will be more useful.

– I think you should use what you feel is best when baking and believe that it is a gold edge on everyday life, but not something you eat every day. It’s good not to spoil your mouth with everything to taste sweet.

Is fruit as bad as candy?

It is not just chocolate cookies and muffins that contain sugar. Milk products, fruits, berries, and some vegetables such as corn also contain sugar.

But foods that contain natural sugar are not really comparable to what is added, Sara says.

– You make a difference between sugar that is found naturally in food and what is added because added sugar only provides energy, nothing else the body needs. Thus, it needs to be limited. Foods that naturally contain sugar also contain other nutrients.

The fruit is sweet and raises blood sugar, but contains fiber and vitamins that we need to function.

You should think about this – if you want to cut down on sugar consumption

If you have read this far and feel that sugar is something you want to reduce, Sara Ask recommends separating the added sugar from the natural. The easiest way is to reduce your intake of sugary drinks, buns, pastries, cakes, ice cream, and sweets. Some foods contain a lot of added sugar without thinking about it: like bread, breakfast cereals, and flavored yogurt.

According to the Nordic nutritional recommendations, the added sugar should not exceed 10 percent of the daily energy intake. The same recommendations say that women should not eat more than 50 grams of added sugar per day, and men should stay at 75 grams.

It may be useful to increase their understanding of which foods contain added sweetener, but Sara Ask does not think that one should count on grams.

– The important thing is not exactly how many grams of sugar you eat, but how much of what you get in a day that gives no other nutrition. You should not count sugar, but eat measured on food and lie low with sugared drinks, sweets, and cookies.

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