Sugar Information explains how sugar won't make you fat

The good folks at Sugar Information want you to know the facts: Sugar is GOOD FOOD! After all, if sugar was bad for you, then all those kids who eat all that sugar would be getting obese! That'll never happen.

If sugar is fattening, how come so many kids are thin?


  1. Yeah, how many fat kids are out there? Oh wait… things must have changed since this was published.

    1. Yes, they run tv ads where one “self-righteous” character judges the other for eating/serving their kids HFC laden foods/drinks. The “informed” HFC eater then tells them off and lets them know that HFC comes from nature and can be part of a balanced diet. Makes me yell at my tv every time I see it.

  2. Things did change… they took out the sugar and put in high fructose corn syrup.

    The worst health risk posed by real sugar is tooth decay.

  3. There is some truth to this ad, you see far fewer fat kids in countries other than the US which do not artificially raise the price of sucrose(real white sugar) to unreasonable levels. The US price supports for real sugar make corn syrup much less expensive, so you see this as the main sweetening agent in most foods there. The biological processing of fructose is different in several ways from sucrose, a big difference being that fructose bypasses the insulin regulation system to enter cells.
    The anti-fructose grassroots movement might turn out to be astroturfing, but I find sweets and drinks from outside the US taste better and are for sure less sticky if you spill them.

    1. HFCS is a straw man, at least where obesity is concerned.

      I have not seen any well-designed studies (i.e. ones done by scientists with nutrition/biology backgrounds, good controls, and no ex post facto research) that show a significant difference in the metabolism or uptake of HFCS versus sucrose. It is critically important to note that HFCS is not pure fructose. It is a glucose-fructose mix, just like sugar*. Any time you read a news article about a study that says HFCS is bad, check to make sure that the study is not actually about 100% pure fructose or an abnormally high fructose mix, because there is a significant difference, and journalists fucking suck at understanding and reporting on complex scientific/medical issues.

      What HFCS (and the surrounding hysteria) does do is give unhealthy people a great excuse to continue their unhealthy habits. Why take responsibility for the fact that you eat 5000 calories of shitty food every day and then spend all your waking hours sitting on your ass in front of a desk or a TV when you can instead blame the horrible evil food manufacturers for poisoning you? Blame deflected, cognitive dissonance solved, possibility of needing to make lifestyle changes averted. Yay!

      I’m certainly not saying that food manufacturers have no part to play in this—they do a lot of evil shit, but we really need to take our collective heads out of our asses and stop pretending HFCS on its own (as opposed to the increase of sugar in all foodstuffs) has something to do with the obesity crisis.

      * The exact proportion of fructose vs glucose and the chemical bonds between the two are different in HFCS vs sucrose, so they’re not exactly the same. But close enough.

      1. HFCS is a straw man, at least where obesity is concerned.

        I’m not even going to get into the health debate but I think you have a misunderstanding of the term “straw man.” Perhaps you mean “scapegoat?”

        1. You’re right, I meant red herring. I work hard to master fallacies, but when there are so many of them, sometimes they get crossed in my brain. :)

          I hope some of you that are referencing that Princeton study actually take some time to look at the actual paper. Aside from the fact that you have psychology students doing nutritional science (which is a bit of a WTF on its own), there appears to be some highly questionable ”science“ going on in it.

          In Experiment 1 (short-term), having access to HFCS for 24 hours resulted in no difference in weight gain vs 12 hours of sucrose or ad libidum chow. The only group that was an outlier was the 12 hour HFCS group. This could be interpreted as HFCS is bad for you (as the authors have chosen to do)—or it could be interpreted as “more access to HFCS is better than less access”, since there was apparently a statistically significant difference between 12 hrs of HFCS and 24 hrs of HFCS.

          Conversely, in Experiment 2 (long-term), for females, the only group which was statistically different was the 24 hour HFCS group; the 12 hr HFCS group was OK, and of course they did not include 24 hour sucrose control groups at all in the second study, nor did they include even a 12-hour sucrose control group for the male group.

          How can you draw a conclusion that HFCS (as opposed to sugar in general) is causing obesity when you don’t include a control group for sucrose?

          Overall, the study basically says that if you are a male eating for short periods, unlimited access to HFCS is OK but half-time access is bad. But if you are a female on a long-term diet, unlimited access to HFCS is bad but limited access is OK, and if you are a male on a long-term diet, any access is bad. Contradictory results like this usually mean poor study design or bad statistics, and the fact that they completely neglected to include sucrose control groups should concern you if you care about good science.


  4. “The good natural sweetness of sugar is like a little reward that promotes a sense of satisfaction and well-being.”

    In other words: It’s addictive. Eating sugar automatically conditions kids to want to eat more sugar, in the strictest Pavloian sense of the term. So how are they supposed to maintain that “balanced diet in moderation”?

    1. Dude come on, it’s the same idea as a small dessert to feel satisfied and happy, or putting ketchup on your fries — it makes the meal taste better, making you happier, so you feel that “well-being”. Next time you eat, make sure to put nothing unnecessary on your food, because you’ll be addicting yourself to bad eating, like too much salt or sugar, ketchup — and don’t drink that juice, because it’s just calories and sugar without the benefits of the fibrous tissue! Just drink water and eat uncooked broccoli for the rest of your life (cooking broccoli tastes better, but it loses nutrients in being cooked! You’re getting addicted to less than optimum food!)

      Kids are fat because we have ridiculously fatty and high caloric foods like taco nachos and one pound burritos with another half pound of sour cream. Too much sugar would make them all diabetic, and yeah we see some of that, but the ad is saying that one soda after a meal gives you energy and makes you feel good, and that sugar is important in moderation. As an active person, I can tell you it’d be hard as hell to do active things without the boost a gatorade or coke gives you.

      So many hipsters go to this site…

      1. “Next time you eat, make sure to put nothing unnecessary on your food, because you’ll be addicting yourself to bad eating, like too much salt or sugar, ketchup — and don’t drink that juice, because it’s just calories and sugar without the benefits of the fibrous tissue!”

        You say this as if it’s absurd; but it’s all true, it’s what you have to do to eat healthily. Replace salt with spices, and just plain don’t put sugar or ketchup on food. Cook it so it tastes nice on it’s own.

        You said you’re active, but do you also keep track of your nutrition? When you write down everything you eat and compare it to what doctors recommend, you realise that you get all the sugar you need from your food. Adding anything extra, even fruit juice or more than 1 or 2 pieces of fruit in a day will give you too much. Foods deliberately designed to be sweet are right out.

        I’m also an active person. I just got back from a 75 minute bike ride. I didn’t have any coke or gatorade and it wasn’t hard. I just made sure to get enough calories, carbs, sugar, fat and protein from a healthy breakfast.

        1. NO… just no.

          Moderation moderation moderation.

          Fat is good; sugars are good, salt is good. Just not when you eat lots of it.

          Salt makes stuff taste good; and assuming you’re not already consuming too much then you should feel free to add it; your body needs it after all. It’s about moderation.

          I struggle to buy anything that actually tastes of anything because it’s all ‘0% fat, no salt, reduced sugar! no Carbs!”. Soon we’re all just going to be chewing on multi-vitamins and drinking water.

          You mention cooking things right so they taste good; which I completely agree with; but to me that’s still addressing excessive additions. Adding a pinch of salt to (well most things actually) makes all the difference in how they taste.

          Nobody should be afraid to stick ketchup on their food; or eat a cake. Just make sure you don’t eat too fucking much It’s really not complex.

          It’s almost as bad as the scaremongering around MSG – which I’ve also grown very tired of.

          I should know; I eat how I like, I just don’t eat like an American. I look and feel just great.

        2. Awww steeroy! You are GREAT! More people should be like you! People who are not like you are LOOSERS!!

          1. Weird. I know you get attacked for daring to talk about things like feminism and atheism and animal rights in public. Fitness just doesn’t seem to belong on that list.

      2. Anon says: “So many hipsters go to this site…”

        Tough to take seriously complaints over the demographics of this site from Anon.

      3. Just drink water and eat uncooked broccoli for the rest of your life (cooking broccoli tastes better, but it loses nutrients in being cooked!

        Some vegetables release nutrients in a more use-able state (for humans) when cooked. Broccoli is one of them. Also, carrots.

        As an active person, I can tell you it’d be hard as hell to do active things without the boost a gatorade or coke gives you.

        You’re not eating (or drinking) properly if you need to have one of those drinks to function.

  5. I’d be curious to know what would happen if we replaced all our high fructose corn syrup with regular sugar — would it really make a difference?

    Part of me thinks it would, but another part of me thinks there has to be something more to this obesity epidemic than a single ingredient.

    1. I’ve actually been drinking some of the Coke that has sugar in it instead of the High Fructose crap. The Coke with sugar is much less energizing. (tastes way better too) I think there’s other stuff going on with the modern soft drinks–phenylalanine stimulation may be one thing.

      1. For what it’s worth, if I have some HFCS soda and a meal, my weight goes up. One time within two days of having meals with HFCS soda I gained 4-5 pounds.

        And “Mexicoke” (aka: Coke with Sugar from Mexico) really does taste better and doesn’t give you a “rush.” Something is definitely up.

  6. The poster isn’t really wrong. It’s somewhat misleading, but it doesn’t deliberately misstate anything.

  7. @ #6 Yeah its more than one ingredient, but the sugar helps spike your insulin so that all the other calories you take in will fatten you up

  8. HFCS and sugar are essentially the same thing. Sucrose is 50/50 glucose/fructose, HFCS is 45/55 at worst. Kids just eat more sugars these days, since it’s in everything because it’s super-cheap when made from corn and subsidized.

    When this ad was published, there weren’t all the fat kids you see today. I grew up eating tons of sugar and I’ve never been overweight. I burned off all those calories.

    Today kids play video games 24/7 and surf the internet and can’t go outside for fear of the bogeyman. And don’t even bring up walking to and from school.

    The more active you are, the more sugar you need. It’s the best fuel for active people. The problem is inactivity, not sugar. If you’re inactive, fructose converts easily into fat.

    1. The difference is that sucrose is one molecule that has to be split into glucose and fructose first, which slows uptake and HFSC is a pre-split mix of glucose and fructose which is taken up much faster by the body, resulting in a shorter, higher insulin spike.

  9. I grew up in the 60’s and as kids we had sugar on everything. Everyday we had breakfast cereal with heaps of sugar on it, we stuffed our faces with sweets and pop, and guess what? we where all skinny as lats. But we where out all the time, playing football, cricket, rounders, swimming, roller skating or just cycling. As kids we walked to school, walked to the shops. If it rained we got out the lego or meccano, but we where active all the time.

    People are fat because they take in more calories than they burn off. In the food of today there are so many more calories too. When I go around the supermarket to get my diabetic mothers shopping in, I read all the labels, everything is just so packed with sugar and calories.

  10. Another thought on HFCS: Every time I get a sugar soda, it comes in a glass bottle. But HFCS? In a plastic bottle. Potential interaction at play? BPA + HFCS = ???

  11. Americans are fat because they eat bad and, ABOVE ALL, don’t exercise nearly enough.

    People outside North America are less fat mainly because they don’t drive as much. Just about every European I know, on visiting the US, was surprised to find out how much we rely on our cars – driving from one store to another even if it’s just across the road! (Not to mention that in many places, walking/biking simply isn’t an option for lack of bike paths or sidewalks!)

    It’s how much you eat and how much you burn. That’s all.

    1. Well lets see yes Americans on a whole eat poorly and don’t exersize enough. Unlike most European countries you love to compair us to we tend to work more than the 2-4 day weeks they have for a little less in the pocket to spend on food so many resort to Fast food to survive.We also don’t get a Month off for vacation and when we do there are other obligations to worry about. Just because Europe hides their fat people does not mean they don’t have any.

  12. Earlier this year, I read this article, which summarizes a few Princeton studies on HFCS:

    “The first study showed that male rats given water sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup in addition to a standard diet of rat chow gained much more weight than male rats that received water sweetened with table sugar, or sucrose, in conjunction with the standard diet… The second experiment — the first long-term study of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup consumption on obesity in lab animals — monitored weight gain, body fat and triglyceride levels in rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup over a period of six months. Compared to animals eating only rat chow, rats on a diet rich in high-fructose corn syrup showed characteristic signs of a dangerous condition known in humans as the metabolic syndrome, including abnormal weight gain, significant increases in circulating triglycerides and augmented fat deposition, especially visceral fat around the belly. Male rats in particular ballooned in size: Animals with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained 48 percent more weight than those eating a normal diet.”

    Certainly, I agree that it’s a bad idea to blame obesity on any single factor — be it HFCS, video games, etc. It certainly doesn’t help that the prices on groceries have been surging upwards for awhile now — it can be more expensive to eat a healthy diet than to grab a few $1 cheeseburgers at a fast food place. As for increased sugar and HFCS intake, it certainly doesn’t help that so many schools have had their budgets slashed and have to make deals with soft drink companies and fast food companies to make up the shortfall. That in turn has probably ingrained younger and younger kids with some terrible eating habits.

    1. Thanks for saving me having to hunt down that study.

      Seems to me that the obesity problem started when corn became the standard sweetener.

  13. I think it is kinda ironic and sad that you have the sugar ad bashing article, and then two articles down an article about Apple looking for iPhone antenna engineers. The iPhone is of course safe to use.

    In 10 years time Boing Boing will probably bring similar articles about the “Crazy cell phone ads of 2010. Haw haw, look at these ads. And people thought they were safe, they must have been stupid. How ridiculous, haw haw haw…”

  14. “Balanced” is mentioned four times, and “moderation” twice – it’s not telling you to drink all the coke you want.

    The advice we got from our midwife last year is that there is actually now a developing problem of malnutrition amongst children.

    New parents see fat older kids and so have been feeding their children with low fat and low sugar food that may be a good diet for an adult, but is actually not good for growing children.

  15. The Sugar people want you to know that you don’t see fat kids now a days. You see kids full of tumors from corm syrup.

  16. If you actually read the body copy it’s a very fair argument.

    Eat in moderation, eat in variety. Sugar DOES have a place in a balanced diet, just as they state. Just cause Cory believes in deadly Atkins doesn’t mean a balanced diet is some kind of myth. It’s just a myth in *cough* certain parts of the world.

    Their argument of looking around for fat kids falls over these days; but that has very little do do with sugar in itself, and more to do with kids eating far too much shit food.

  17. The difference between when the ad was written and now is not the sugar but the exercise.

    People get fat because calories in is greater than calories burned. For some stupid reason it’s always assumed that the only side of this equation we can affect is the calories in.

    Kids should be running around enjoying themselves (as should adults!) and then it wouldn’t matter how many calories they’d be getting. Just stopping eating much will just produce thin unfit people when what you really want is thin fit people.

    1. Exactly. People get too entrenched with the urban world, not realizing that our bodies don’t pay attention to it; they’re still designed for hard manual labor, and expect it — that’s why so many bodies get fat, sludge-like, and weak when people don’t go to the gym, or go run or for a bike ride. If our bodies were set for urban life we wouldn’t need to do that.

      Climb a tree, adults!

  18. The real danger posed by HFCS isn’t that it is that much worse than sugar, it’s that it is much, much cheaper than sugar, thanks to all the corn subsidies. Our tax dollars are paying to put buckets of that shit in everything, where an equivalent amount of sugar would cost too much.

  19. As a kid, I remember bikes, climbing trees and wandering in the woods being the essential part of our day. Though I myself am on the computer when I should be out biking. The article sited above:
    is worth reading though. HFCS was assumed safe, but it’s bizarre that an ingredient became such a staple of the diet without similar studies before hand. For those saying it’s just a lil different then sugar, try drinking methanol or propanol instead of ethanol. Stucturally VERY similar.

  20. I don’t see anything particularly wrong about this ad. Moderation is the key to anything.

    As kids in the 60s we pretty much lived on sugar! Hell, I can’t even imagine how much sugar we had in our breakfast cereal alone (which we then poured sugar on!) And how about Fluff on Wonder Bread? The amount I ate in a day (and I was skinny and more a reader than a “runner-arounder”) probably exceeds my daughter’s intake for a whole week (and I’m FAR from a healthy “crunchy” mom or role model — I just require that she asks permission before grabbing treats and so can put the brakes on if she gets too munchy.)

    But, for the records, there DID used to be fat kids — my dad was overweight as a kid and he was born in the 30s, and was one of six kids, in a family that didn’t have much money. So it’s not like he was scarfing down sweets. (And he wasn’t the only one — look in old ads and you’ll see a “healthy” baby and child then was often one we’d call overweight, even obese, today.(

    And…at the risk of being flamed as elitist, part of the obesity problem often *is* socio-economic. Starches (and junk food) are cheap after all and parents often feel they have bigger problems to worry about (like surviving.) Money, education, and the luxury of parental oversight can go a hell of a long way to cutting off problems.

  21. Sorry Steeroy woke up drunk and grumpy.
    Disclosure.Iam from Scotland.As the sickest nation in Europe, by default we hate/fear/mock the heatlthy.

  22. There`s absolutely nothing wrong with this ad, except the title, that is no longer true. The text itself is crammed with common sense. The fact is treats are good if they`re treated as, well, treats! Once you start cramming your face with treats, instead of food, you get fat.

    People need to learn to listen to their bodies, and stop eating when they`re satisfied.

    And learn to do real things. Concentrate on doing things you can tell people about later. Ex.: You can tell people about a cool bike ride, but you there`s nothing to report about 2hrs on a video game.

  23. Yes, it’s true that there is too much HFCS (and other synthetic nasties) in our diet, and that that is contributing to our society’s astoundingly poor overall health. But it is only the slightest bit player compared to the stupendous amounts of gasoline that are the root of the problem.

    1. agreed, entirely. HFCS burns out your liver and pancreas and makes you a moody wreck in the long term.

      Going beyond the HFCS debate, it would also be wonderful if people knew how many of the additives in the prepared foods they eat come directly from the oil we take out of the ground.

      Better living through chemistry, eh?

  24. it is amazing how much better you feel after cutting high fructose corn syrup out of your diet. It is not easy as EVERYTHING has it. You really need to eat natural if you want to remove this IMHO poison out of your life. If I want something sweet, I have the one made with Sugar. Tastes so much better and I don’t feel like such a spaz after eating it.

  25. Oh, and I neglected to mention that the HFCS equivalent organization is the Corn Refiners Association.

  26. +1 to Ghede.

    Billions in subsidies to use corn for everything. In addition to the problems this has created in the U.S., those subsidies have basically ruined Mexican farmers. And where have all those poor rural workers gone, desperate for work?

  27. Several posters claim that sucrose is just 50/50 glucose/fructose much like High Fructose Corn Syrup. It isn’t. Sucrose is a compound of glucose & fructose, a disaccharide to be precise and that has a very different impact on your body than a glucose/fructose mixture.

    I’m a Brit, we don’t get that HFCS here thank all the gods. But I’ve visited the US enough to tell you that your candy tastes like vomit compared to ours.

  28. This is funny because it reads like something my 9 year old would write to convince his mother and me to let him eat more sugar.

    “What’s one important carbohydrate? Sugar.”

  29. I don’t like sweets. When I was a teenager, at my mother’s recommendation, I started seeing a dentist who does not use any anesthetics.

    Two things… one: only an amazingly talented and skilled dentist can successfully drill your teeth without anesthetic, because no strength of will can prevent your screaming and flailing if the dentist touches a nerve. The quality of the man’s work is legendary. two: getting fillings without anesthetic will make you stop liking food that rots your teeth.

    That is all.

  30. I lived on 60’s sugar, and was as thin as a rail! Still a semi-svelte 200 pounds, 5’11”. However, TONS of cavities back then!

  31. Okay folks, if HFCS is so innocuous, then how come the U.S. is the only country in the world that subsidizes its cultivation? And for that matter, why are some states (such as New York) trying to tax “sugary drinks”? Does it not seem odd to anyone Americans have a food source that is subsidized by the government and now branches of said government now want to tax us on what we are already subsidizing?

    Sorry folks. Something is just inherently creepy about HFCS. And I avoid it as much as possible.

  32. Sugar can be part of a healthy diet. Too much sugar is bad, but so is too much of anything.

    1. Too much of anything
      Is too much for me:
      Too much of everything
      And everything gets too much for me.

      Maybe I’ve heard a bit too much…

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