The word sugar (there: sukkar), borrowed from Arabic, is usually understood to mean white or brown granular table sugar or granulated sugar. The chemically produced substance sucrose is usually behind this. This substance consists of glucose and fructose and, when consumed regularly and in excess, leads to lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Nowadays, younger people are increasingly affected, which is why we no longer speak of adult-onset diabetes, but rather of type 2 diabetes. The main cause of the disease is often overweight.

But why does sugar make us sick? Why does sugar demand more sugar? Is every sugar the same as the other or are there alternatives to the tasty granulated sugar? If sugar makes you sick, why doesn't the food industry reduce production?

1. Sugar makes you sick

According to statistics, the average German consumes 37 kilograms of sugar per year, while an American consumes almost a third more (58 kilograms). More than half of this comes from industrial foods, because sugar is a cheap additive that is used as a flavoring agent in almost all ready meals, frozen meals, ready-made sauces and much more. It even serves to improve the appearance of bread (there: bread crust) and roast crusts (e.g. through caramelization). The beverage industry with soft drinks such as Cola, Fanta and Sprite are the largest suppliers of sugar. The sugar expert Prof. Robert H. Lustig describes “the fizzy soft drinks” as the MAIN CAUSE of type 2 diabetes (JAMA study, 2004) and obesity in young people. Sugar makes you sick! Anyone who drinks one soft drink a day gains an average of 7.5 kg body weight per year. Through soft drinks, we consume “high doses” of sugar in a short period of time. Blood sugar levels skyrocket and this leads to excessive insulin production in the pancreas. In the liver, the sugar is processed into liver fat. However, the fat produced causes the liver to not work properly. Because of this, the pancreas produces more insulin to support the liver. Insulin throughout the body increases and in the long term this causes weight gain and chronic metabolic disorders. Sugar has a similar effect on the body as alcohol, but without the kick. When consumed in excess, sugar and ethanol (=alcohol) trigger the same disorders because ethanol is nothing more than fermented sugar.

If the metabolism is disrupted due to excessive sugar consumption, the brain signals to the body that it is starving. The result is a constant feeling of hunger or “cravings” for sugary carbohydrates.

2. Sugar demands more sugar

On average, we all weigh 25 kg more than we did 30 years ago. Obesity even among young children has become epidemic, especially in the United States, where people eat a lot of fast food. If sugar is so unhealthy, why not eliminate it from your diet? Prof. Lustig argues that people eat so much of it because the industry says so. Almost all foods on supermarket shelves contain the sweet poison. Once you get into the “sugar cycle”, the brain reacts and signals to the body that it needs this “substance”.

Sugar triggers the brain, especially in patients who already tend to be overweight, explains Prof. Falk Kiefer from the ZI Mannheim. The same center in the brain is stimulated during “sugar withdrawal” as in drug addicts during drug withdrawal.

Just like drug addicts, people accept many disadvantages due to their preference for sweets, such as weight gain, liver damage, high blood pressure, tooth decay, arthritis and much more

In order to escape this vicious circle, the goal must be to keep blood sugar levels and thus insulin levels low. A consistent avoidance of sugary foods and table sugar should be replaced by a protein-rich diet, with lots of vegetables and healthy fats (with a high Omega 3 share).

3. Fructose is not glucose

Prof. Lustig's studies have shown that the main cause of the increased fat content in the liver is primarily due to fructose. So-called “high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS), or corn syrup in German, is often used in fast food. HFCS is half as cheap as sugar and is therefore increasingly used in burgers, barbecue sauces, pretzels and bread, especially in the USA. HFCS came to the United States from Japan in the 1980s. “According to the German Sugar Types Ordinance, a glucose syrup that contains more than 5% fructose by weight in dry matter must be referred to as “glucose-fructose syrup”. If the fructose content predominates, it must be referred to as “fructose-glucose syrup.” HFCS is therefore less common in Germany.

Dextrose (glucose) is less sweet and is therefore less common as a flavor enhancer in foods. Glucose is a simple sugar required as the ultimate nutrient for the brain. However, it is important to consume it in moderation and embedded in fiber-rich foods such as quinoa, potatoes or lentils. More complex carbohydrates such as starch are converted into glucose much more slowly and high fluctuations in blood sugar are avoided.

4. What is the industry doing?

Sugar is a cheap additive and customers like to buy ready-made products to save time and money. According to the German Frozen Institute, per capita consumption of frozen food has tripled in the last 20 years, which is also due to the quick and easy preparation of these products. However, these ready meals contain significantly more sugar than meals you prepare yourself. People have already gotten used to the artificial taste of industrial food.

Nevertheless, industry and politics should counteract the obvious undesirable developments of the past 30 years. German health insurance companies pay out millions of dollars every year for the approximately 7.5 million diabetes patients. The Association for Food Law and Food Science still lacks proof that sugar really makes you sick.


Hans-Ulrich Grimm: The nutritional lie. How the food industry is driving us crazy, Munich 2003: 282-283.

Lecture by Prof. Robert H. Lustig: Sugar: The Bitter Truth:

ZDF Zoom - Sweet and dangerous - The bitter side of sugar:

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