Sugars - NU Hospitals

Our body converts all food into energy (calories). The main source of energy is from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates include sugars, starch, fibre etc. Our body converts all carbohydrate into glucose a type of sugar. There are 2 main forms of carbohydrate simple and complex.


Our body converts all food into energy (calories). The main source of energy is from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates include sugars, starch, fibre etc. Our body converts all carbohydrate into glucose, a type of sugar.

There are 2 main forms of carbohydrate - simple and complex. It is based on the digestibility, its ability to absorb - as well as its chemical structure. 1gm of carbohydrate gives 4 Kcals. Simple carbohydrates are the main problem, where as complex carbohydrates are recommended in food.

Simple carbohydrates are easily digested and cause rapid surge in sugar levels in the blood as they don’t require further breakdown from enzymes. Eg. Refined Sugars. Refined sugars do not have the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in complex and natural carbohydrates. They are often called "empty calories" because they have little to no nutritional value.

Complex carbohydrate are many units of simple sugars along with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fibre takes time to digest, they do not increase the blood sugar level quickly.

Sugars are the generalized name for sweet, which is used in many foods, drinks, and medicines to improve their taste. Also called table sugar. There are various types of sugar derived from different sources. We shall discuss glucose, fructose and sucrose.

GLUCOSE (simple carbohydrate)

Glucose also called as dextrose, grape sugar or corn sugar is widely distributed in nature.  It is the principal source of energy for all living beings. Our body processes carbohydrates into glucose, either to be used immediately or to be stored in the muscle cells or liver cells, as glycogen for the later use. This glucose is carried into the cells of the body by insulin. After the energy stores in the body is sufficient, excess glucose in the stored as fat.

Normal human blood contains about 80 -100mg of glucose per 100ml.

The brain and RBC’s utilize glucose exclusively. The brain of an adult requires approximately 140gms of glucose per day, accounting for 560kcals. Glucose needs increase during pregnancy and lactation. It is also indispensable for the maintaining the functional integrity of the nerve tissues. Similarly glucose is important for muscle activity.

Fructose (simple carbohydrate)

fructose (fruit sugar) is a sugar found naturally in fruits and is also known a laevulose. It is broken down in the liver to glucose and does not require insulin for metabolism. It is the sweetest occurring sugar - approximately twice as sweet as table sugar (sucrose) with the same calorific value as glucose. Fructose is found in honey, fruits, flowers, berries, and most root vegetables and is widely used as a sweetener in various beverages such as soft drinks and fruit-flavored drinks.

Excess intake of Fructose leads to

  1. Dyslipidemia.
  2. Gout and elevated blood pressure.
  3.  Deposition of fat in the liver leading to Non- alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  4. Increases insulin resistance leading to obesity and type II diabetes.
  5. Increased lnsulin elevates insulin growth factor -1 in body ultimately causes cancer.
  1. Lead to an elevation of the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin which makes you eat more causing obesity.
  2. Raises serum levels of both lactic acid and uric acid.
  • Even though fructose has low calorie compared to glucose , useage of fructose instead of glucose can be harmful as it doesn’t require insulin for metabolism and is more readily absorbed than glucose

Sucrose (simple carbohydrate)

Sucrose is also called as table sugar or cane sugar or beet sugar. Widely used as a sweetener, found in many plants but extracted as ordinary sugar mainly form sugar cane and sugar beets. It is easily broken down by digestive enzymes into single molecules of glucose and fructose to facilitate its absorption.

Sucrose in Food: For example, white sugar, brown sugar and maple syrup are mainly made of sucrose most sweetened foods and beverages, cakes, cookies, fruit punches, muffins, pancakes and granola bars.

Effect of high sucrose intake

  • Increases the blood sugar level when consumed in the form of added snack.
  • High sucrose intake can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease due to presence of high fructose in it.
  • When studies were conducted it showed that sucrose had most impact compared to honey, free fructose and glucose on blood glucose levels.


These are different form of sugars used in the day to day life. Here is some information of all these sweeteners. Both Jaggery and Sugar are predominantly made up of sucrose, white honey is made up of fructose and sucrose.

Jaggery: Jaggery is more complex than sugar, as it is made up of longer chains of sucrose. Hence, it is digested slower than sugar and releases energy slowly and not instantaneously. It is a good source of essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Jaggery  gathers a considerable amount of ferrous salts (iron) during its preparation, as it is prepared in iron vessels. Jaggery also contains of traces of mineral salts which are very beneficial for the body. These salts come from the sugar cane juice where it is absorbed from the soil.

Honey:  Honey is a mixture of sugars and other compounds. It is mainly fructose (about 38.5%) and glucose (about 31.0%). As natural sweeteners, honey also contains traces of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Sugar Sucrose Jaggery Honey Fructose
398kcals 387kcals 383kcals 304kcals 279kcals


Due to lack of awareness, jaggery and honey is widely used to sweeten foods and beverages by diabetics. Since jaggery, honey and sugar have nearly equal calories all rapidly increases the blood sugar levels after consumption.

Using of honey and jaggery instead of sugar to reduce calorie intake in obese subjects is not advisable as they provide nearly the same calories as sugar.

Myth: Honey and lime juice with hot water helps in weight reduction

Fact: Honey and lemon juice by itself will not reduce weight, for a weight reduction physical exercise, proper and balanced diet is also very important.

Your blood sugar levels vary throughout the day in response to the foods you eat, your physical activity level, your stress and even your hormones. Many of these factors can interact to increase your blood sugar levels; regularly monitoring your blood sugars with a glucometer can help you better  understand how your body works differently on consuming grains, flours and sugars, added beverages etc.


  • www.americaninstitute of nutrition
  • IGNOU text book of nutrition
  • RB Kanarek, N Orthen-Gambill - The Journal of nutrition, 1982
  • FJ Martinez, RA Rizza, JC Romero - Hypertension, 1994 - Am Heart Assoc


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