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Many health writers make the topic of sugar so complicated that nobody can understand it. It's very simple. Sugar is sugar is sugar. Your body treats the sugar in an apple the same way that it treats all other sources of sugar. The difference is that an apple also contains fiber that slows the rise of blood sugar after you eat it.

Some people believe that honey is more healthful than sugar. They tell us that honey is a quicker source of energy and a richer source of minerals, and is less fattening. All of these clams are nonsensical. As far as your body is concerned, there is no difference between honey and table sugar. Honey contains two simple sugars called glucose and fructose. Table sugar has the same two sugars, only they are bound together to form a double sugar called sucrose. In your body, they end up in exactly the same way. Once sucrose, the double sugar, reaches your intestine, it is broken down into the single sugars glucose and fructose.

Honey and table sugar are processed in the same way by your body, and honey cannot be a quicker source of energy. An advertisement for honey claims that "ounce for ounce, honey has fewer calories than refined sugar." This is true but deceptive because honey contains water which has no calories and refined sugar does not. A tablespoon of table sugar has 64 calories while a tablespoon of honey contains water so that it has only 46,but they are both equally fattening. You add sweeteners by taste, not by careful measurement, and you will use the same number of calories to obtain the same sweetness using either sugar or honey.

It's ridiculous to claim that honey is an excellent source of minerals such as iron and calcium, while sugar is not. To meet your needs for iron, you would have to take in 10 cups of honey a day, and for calcium, you would have to take in 40 cups.

By the same reasoning, your body handles white granulated table sugar in the same way that it processes brown sugar, turbinado sugar, maple syrup, fructose, and all other sugars. Brown sugar is slightly less refined than white sugar, but the difference has no nutritional significance. It makes no difference to your body whether extracted sugar comes from beets, sugar cane, honey, apples or grapes, or maple trees. If you are a diabetic, or store fat primarily in your belly, have high blood triglyceride levels, have a very low blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol that prevents heart attacks, or are trying to lose weight, you should avoid all refined carbohydrates, and that includes all sugars that have been extracted from their source.

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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