If you do an online search about sugar, you may become convinced that it’s evil and addictive – and that your sweet tooth will lead you to ruin. You’ll also see plenty of advice for how to curb your craving for sugary goodness.
But what do we really know about how sugar affects us? Does eating sugar make us want to eat more of it?
First things first. Sugar is a carbohydrate, a category that includes starches. In addition to tasting sweet on your tongue, a spoonful of table sugar – in a cup of coffee, for example – will cause the sugar, or glucose, level in your blood to rise.
Your body responds differently to eating an apple, which is loaded with fruit sugars. For the same amount of carbohydrate, table sugar will prompt a much bigger spike in blood glucose than a few bites of apple.
That’s because the apple’s sugars are “in natural form, in the whole fruit,” says David Ludwig, a physician and professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The sugar is sequestered in the structure of the fruit, and it leaches out slowly.” In contrast, the sugar in sodas and candy, he says, “slams into the liver and raises blood glucose.”