Health Myths – You need sugar for energy


Glucose is a type of sugar that is produced by the body in response to the foods we eat. 

With the help of the hormone insulin, glucose is transported from the bloodstream into the cells to be used as energy.

Diabetics have raised glucose in their bloodstreams and their bodies either do not produce sufficient insulin to transport it to their cells or the receptors become less responsive to insulin so their cells do not benefit from the “energy” and it continues to circulate in the bloodstream which can cause damage to various systems including the kidneys, eyes and liver.

Insulin can be thought of as a key that unlocks fat, muscle and liver cells so that glucose can get in to the cells. 

Glucose, amino acids, and fats are required by the body for energy and glucose is especially necessary as fuel for the brain. Recent studies, however, are showing that Alzheimer’s and dementia can be triggered by a type of insulin resistance that occurs in the brain and it is now believed that the brain’s requirements for glucose decreases as we age.

Excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles and can be converted back to glucose should blood sugar levels drop – like when you’ve skipped a meal and are slower in consuming the next lot of necessary energy from food.

So, it is true that sugars provide energy, but just what type of sugars should we be consuming for better health for our bodies? Quality, quantity, and source are important.  

Natural sources of sugar include carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. When eating foods in their whole form the release of their natural sugars is much slower and along with the fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients, provide a beneficial source of fuel for the body.

Refined carbohydrates or simple sugars are the problem because they are metabolized very quickly by the body causing spikes in blood sugar which damages arteries and causes us to store fat while the consequent dip in blood sugar causes fatigue as well as mood and concentration issues.

The sugars we add to drinks and cereals or those that we consume in soft drinks, flavored yoghurts, cereals, cakes, biscuits, sweets, and chocolate as well as processed foods and many sauces are the one’s that are harmful. 

How much sugar is ok to have?

Men should have no more that 9tsp (36g) of sugar per day, whereas women should have no more than 6tsp (25g). Put into perspective, one can of soda contains around 38g of sugar per 375ml can and fruit juices are not much better with about 27g of sugar per 250ml can.

Excess sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. High sugar consumption overloads the liver, and in the same way that alcohol is metabolized, the liver converts excess dietary carbohydrates to fat which will be stored in the liver, arteries, around the organs and all over the body. When we consume empty calories, like sugary drinks, the body turns off its appetite control system making weight gain inevitable. This also drives overeating and food addictions which become very hard to break.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 6 May 2021 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am