Sugar Sugar

This substance is found everywhere.  From raisins to peanut butter, cereals, desserts, ketchup, hot sauces and even some pickles, it is nearly impossible to avoid refined sugar.  The vast majority of us consume a substantial amount of sugar (sucrose) a day that we have no idea about.  Sugar is often associated with sweet desserts, candy, pop, etc, but I would argue that a considerable amount of the sugar we consume comes from things that we did not eat to satisfy our sweet tooth.  So why is refined sugar so bad?

High consumption of refined sugar has been linked to:

  • Obesity: High amounts of sugar in the diet leads to excess glucose being stored as fat in the body.  Obesity is also associated with increasing the risk of developing all of the below conditions.
  • Cancer:  Some studies have suggested that those who eat diets high in sugar are more likely to develop cancer.  Limiting sugars (not just refined sugar) is also believed to improve outcomes in those with certain types of cancer (breast, colorectal, prostate).
  • Diabetes: Probably what we most frequently associate high sugar intake with, although obesity is actually the most important factor in developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  • Cardiovascular disease:  It is connected with obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and a poor diet (including high sugar consumption and low fiber).
  • Osteoporosis:  Refined sugar is considered "acidic" which means that it will take the calcium away from the bone and indirectly contribute to a loss of bone density.
  • Immune system depression: Refined carbohydrates have been shown to decrease immune response to bacteria.  Also, some organisms such as yeasts are fueled by sugar.  If you are experiencing chronic infections, you may want to talk to your doctor about cutting out refined sugar.
Many of these conditions require many years of poor diet and lifestyle habits to develop, so we cannot really associate that one piece of chocolate cake or the one can of pop to diabetes or cancer.  However it is important to realize the more immediate effects of refined sugars as well.  Sugar may lead to exacerbations of many existing conditions, for example: GERD, acne, endometriosis, and digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

So, is having ketchup with your eggs one day a week going to give you cancer or diabetes? Probably not.  However, it is important to realize that while moderation is key, refined sugar was never part of the human diet until fairly recently.  Maybe it's too late now, and yes we probably would be sad to see some of our favorite products disappear, but imagine how much healthier we would all be without refined sugar!  Remember that a life without refined sugar does not have to mean a sad life--check out our recipes section for some great sugar-free ideas, or our post on sugar alternatives.  Lastly, remember to always read food labels.  You will be surprised to see how much sugar pops up.

All the best,


Davies NJ, Batehup L, Thomas R. The role of diet and physical activity in breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer survivorship: a review of the literature. Br J Cancer. 2011 Nov 8; 105 Suppl 1: S52-73.
Gaby A. Nutritional Medicine. 2011.
Pizzorno J. and Murray M. Textbook of Natural Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, 1999.
Prousky, Jonathan. Principles & Practices of Naturopathic Clinical Nutrition. Toronto: CCNM Press, 2008.

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Dr. Cho, ND is a naturopathic doctor based in Pickering, Ontario and Richmond Hill, Ontario.  She maintains a private practice focused in pain management and sports nutrition, in addition to a general family practice at Durham Natural Health Centre.  To learn more about Dr. Cho, book a complimentary 15 minute consult by clicking here.  Not in the Durham Region?  Contact her through to learn about more options.


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