How Healthy Are 'Healthy' Sugars?

  • By Lee Kum-sook

    August 09, 2019 08:39

    Even supposedly "healthy" sugars like demerara or agave syrup that are being marketed by big food businesses are still bad for your health, doctors warn.

    Black sugar used in bubble tea is made by boiling juice from sugar cane until it turns black. It does not go through a refining process like white sugar, so it contains nutrients from the raw material. But the end product is still 90 percent of sugar.

    Agave syrup is made from the same plant as tequila and consists of around 70 percent sugar. It in fact has 1.5 times more calories than refined sugar, according to Lee Yong-ho at Yonsei University's Severance Hospital. If consumed in large quantities, there are no health benefits.

    Lee Seung-eun at Chungang University Hospital adds, "Whatever the provenance of sugar, whether it be plants, fruits, or honey, a high intake is bad for you."

    Added sugars from plants, like agave syrup, have large amounts of fructose, which was once considered healthier than glucose because it does not increase blood sugar levels, but it can cause other problems.

    Excessive intake of fructose can increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension and stroke, said Lee Seung-eun.

    Many foods naturally contain sugar, so it is best to minimize added sugars. The best thing would be never to expose children to sweets, but if that is impossible, people should gradually decrease the amount of sugar in their diet.

    Study nutrition information labels when buying processed food, and choose those with lower sugar content. Kang Jae-heon at Samsung Medical Center said, "Our body needs sugar as a source of energy, but excessive intake causes health problems. We should be careful not to be fooled by advertising of 'healthy' sugars." 

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