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Facts and fiction

The health effects of the food we eat are in the public and media spotlight more than ever before, and few ingredients are subject to more intense debate than sugar. With so much conflicting information available about sugar, health and nutrition, it can be hard to tell facts from fiction. Here we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about sugar. Read also Facts about sugar - a common brochure initiative from the European food and drink sectors.

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Why is there sugar in food?

Besides bringing sweetness, sugar also contributes to several of our food’s sensory properties such as colour, texture and taste. In some products, sugar can act as a natural preservative.

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How much sugar do fruit, berries and vegetables contain?

Sugars occur naturally in varying amounts in fruit, berries and vegetables. Sugar beet and sugar cane are the only plants that contain so much sugar that it are worth extracting.

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Are sugars in fruit and berries healthier than added sugars?

The body cannot distinguish between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars from fruits and berries.

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Does sugar make you fat?

If you consume more energy than your body use in the course of the day, you will become overweight. It’s all about finding your energy balance.

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Do we eat more sugar now than we used to?

The debate may give the impression that we are eating more sugar than we used to, but statistics show otherwise. Although it varies from country to country, overall we are not eating more sugar.

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Is sugar unhealthy?

It is far more relevant to look at eating habits and lifestyle as a whole, rather than focusing on one single ingredient or food product.

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Is sugar empty calories?

The term “empty calories” describes food that contains energy, but no vitamins and minerals. Whether sugar is “empty calories” depends on the composition of the food or meal.

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Does “reduced sugars” mean fewer calories?

“Reduced sugars” or similar claims in food do not necessarily mean fewer calories. It is important to read nutrition declarations on food and drinks, which compare the total energy content per 100 grams or ml.

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Does sugar cause cavities in your teeth?

Frequent intake of food products containing fermentable carbohydrates like sugar and starch may increase the risk of developing dental caries, especially in people with poor dental hygiene.

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Can you get diabetes from eating sugar?

Type 2 diabetes is a so-called “lifestyle disease”. Sugar has not been established as a direct cause of diabetes. Obesity and lack of physical activity are reported to be major risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

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Does sugar cause large blood sugar fluctuations?

Blood sugar fluctuations after a meal are natural. It is nothing to worry about if you are otherwise healthy. The body regulates itself between meals.

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Is brown sugar healthier than white?

Brown cane sugar contains small quantities of minerals. However, its contribution to the recommended daily intake is negligible. Therefore brown cane sugar is not healthier than white sugar.

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Do children become hyperactive from too much sugar?

Scientific studies have found no relationship between children’s sugar intake and problems in their concentration or behaviour.

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Can you become addicted to sugar?

Specific foodstuffs, nutrients or food additives do not cause addiction in the sense of substance-based addiction.

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Do sugar taxes impact obesity or health outcomes?

To date, studies looking at the effectiveness of sugar taxation have found no impact on obesity or health outcomes. Consumers tend to buy cheaper versions of the taxed products rather than consuming fewer calories.

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