Liquid sugar, such as in sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks, is the leading single source of added sugar in the American diet, representing 36% of the added sugar we consume.
Research suggests that our bodies process liquid sugar differently than sugar in foods, especially those containing fiber.
Scientists argue that when you eat an apple (for example), you may be getting as many as 18 grams of sugar, but the sugar is “packaged” with about one-fifth of our daily requirement of fiber. Because it takes our bodies a long time to digest that fiber, the apple’s sugar is slowly released into our blood stream, giving us a sustained source of energy.
But when we drink the same amount of sugar in sugary drinks, it doesn’t include that fiber. As a result, the journey from liquid sugar to blood sugar happens quickly, delivering more sugar to the body’s vital organs than they can handle. Over time, that can overload the pancreas and liver, leading to serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.
Watch the full video with UC Davis nutritional biologist, Dr. Kimber Stanhope:
Sugar. Everyone loves a sweet treat, but sugar has found its way into savory foods like pasta sauce and bread. On average, Americans eat nearly 66 pounds of added sugar per person per year. It’s easy to exceed the daily recommended sugar intake when a 12 oz soda has about 11 teaspoons of added sugar. But what about the sugar in fruit? Should people be worried about how much fruit they’re eating? Kimber Stanhope, a Nutritional biologist at UC Davis, walks us through the science.
Sugar doesn’t just add to our waistlines, it is linked to chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. There is also growing scientific consensus that one of the most common types of sugar, fructose (found in high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar) can be toxic to the liver, just like alcohol.
Is fruit juice better for you than soda?
Dr. Stanhope gets asked this a lot. The short answer is that no one really knows for sure.
“…it drives me crazy that I don’t know the answer for sure. I have not found any studies in the scientific literature that have actually compared the consumption of a sugar-sweetened beverage to a fruit juice-sweetened beverage for more than one day. So we’re going to do a 2-week study…one group will be getting fruit juice (orange juice), the other group will get a sucrose-sweetened beverage. And I think it’s very important that this study gets done because there are many scientists out there that have made the assumption that fruit juice is just as bad as sucrose [because they’ve taken out the fiber in fruit], and they might be right, but I don’t know. There is evidence in the literature, epidemiological studies, that suggest that fruit juice is protective compared to a sugar-sweetened beverage, and there is also a couple of studies that suggest they’re just as bad. We need to know.”
Stanhope points out that the answer may even differ for each type of fruit juice (grapefruit juice, apple juice, orange juice, etc.). She hopes to study the question in more detail once the preliminary results come in.