Is sugar bad for you?

By on July 5, 2013

“It is not good to eat much honey”
Proverbs 25:27

Do you know the Japanese kanji for sugar (satou)? Here it is: 砂糖

Next time you go shopping,  look out for this on packets of processed food in the list of ingredients which are helpfully (and by law) written in the frame on the label. You will have to look quite hard to find a savoury product which does not have added sugar. Some examples: peanut butter, pasta sauce, crackers, bread, soup, smoked salmon, salad dressings, potato chips and many tinned foods and bottled drinks.

Does this matter? It does. Excessive sugar consumption has been implicated in the obesity epidemic and may be detrimental to health in many other ways – from tooth decay to diabetes to heart disease.

There is a growing body of medical opinion that heart disease may not be so much the result of eating fat, but of consuming too much carbohydrate, especially the highly refined variety. This includes the white stuff that you may put in your tea or coffee, as well white rice and white bread. It seems that refined carbohydrate is involved in the development of what is called the metabolic syndrome – obesity, abnormities of the amounts of the various fats in the blood (cholesterols and triglycerides), high blood pressure and a phenomenon called insulin resistance. This comes about because the body’s response to refined carbohydrate intake is to produce excessive insulin which encourages the putting down of fat in the liver and other tissues.


Illustration by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals

Apart from all that, I don’t happen to like peanut butter or soup with sugar in it, but do I have a choice? Yes, but it can be difficult to find. Why can’t these products normally be made without sugar? After all, if you want sugar with anything it’s simple enough to add it with a spoon from a bag of the granulated stuff according to your taste – though I would not recommend doing so.

Unfortunately, the story is more complicated, because even if you avoid the straightforward satou, which is chemically known as sucrose (made of a molecule of glucose and fructose), there are many other types of sugar which may not be so easy to spot. Here are some: honey, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, polydextrose, lactose, sorbitol and maltodextrin. High fructose corn syrup (made of about 55% fructose and 42% glucose), especially, is added to a wide variety of processed foods.

If you want a healthy snack, try an apple or other fresh fruit, a piece of cheddar cheese, some nuts, or raw vegetables such as carrot sticks or celery.

 Read more about what foods raise the sugar level

About Dr. Gabriel Symonds

Dr. Gabriel Symonds was the director of the Tokyo British Clinic. The clinic closed down in May 2014 after serving the expatriate community for 20+ years. Dr. Symonds has retired and the Tokyo British Clinic is now closed.
Dr Symonds will continue to live in Tokyo and may be contacted by e-mail over any questions concerning medical records or related matters:
He will be available from another address for:
smoking cessation
circumcision information Tel: (03) 5458-6099