Not All Sugar Is Created Equal

An apple has as much sugar as a candy bar. Why is the apple’s sugar okay?

Ashley Abramson
Elemental
Published in
5 min readOct 23, 2019

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Photo: PhotoAlto/Milena Boniek/Getty Images

SScience is clear that consuming too much sugar comes with some significant risks: A high-sugar diet contributes to health issues like obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, and even heart disease. Other research suggests that consuming too much sugar can lead to an increased risk for cancer, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cognitive decline.

Despite the growing body of research suggesting its dangers, sugar is still a staple in the American diet. According to the USDA, more than half of the population consumes more than the recommended amount.

While it’s clear that sugar can negatively affect health, not all sugar is created equal. The main culprit in chronic disease risk is added sugar, like table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, rather than the naturally occurring sugars found in fruit. Technically, a piece of whole fruit and a candy bar are similar in sugar content: A medium-sized apple contains around 19 grams of sugar, while a Snickers bar has about 20 grams. But nutritionists say these two foods do very different things to the body.

For example, heart disease risk goes up with the percentage of added sugar you consume. According to one study that tracked participants’ added sugar intake…

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Ashley Abramson
Elemental

Writer-mom hybrid. Health & psychology stories in NYT, WaPo, Allure, Real Simple, & more.