Everyday Chemistry – Sugar In Your Body

The Chronicle asked several students about their personal relationship to sugar, and how they think it affects our bodies.

“Sugar has multiple issues. One because like in the normal sugary drink or food there’s no fiber, so sugar turns to fat, so if you eat an excessive amount of sugar it’ll turn to fat.”-Ben Parrotte

“On average I most likely eat too much sugar per day.”-Andy Vermette

“In Moderate amounts, if you go by the recommended amount daily amount. I feel like it would be good for you, like it gives you energy and releases dopamine.” -Zach Baldasero

“If you have to much it will just distribute into fat.”-Tucker Odum

“You eat it and then it turns into ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), and then it gets turned into energy”-Harry Georgaklis

How much sugar is too much for the human body? What amount is enough to satisfy the sugar crave most of us suffer from?

The recommended amount of sugar for men is 150 calories per day, or 37.5 grams, and 100 calories per day, 25 grams, for women.

There are 39 grams of sugar in a single Coca Cola can, so by the time you drink that can of soda you have already passed the suggested daily intake. The average American consumes around 76.6 grams of sugar a day.

But what is the real chemistry of sugar, and why do we consume so much?

Sugar is a molecule composed of 12 atoms of carbon, 22 atoms of hydrogen, and 11 atoms of oxygen. Sucrose, more commonly known as sugar, is a disaccharide, ‘or double sugar’, being composed of one molecule of glucose linked to one molecule of fructose. Since one molecule of water (H2O) is lost in the condensation reaction linking glucose to fructose, sucrose is represented by the formula C12H22O11.
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And why is it so addictive? “Sugar has a similar effect on your brain to hanging out with friends, sex, and even drugs.” says Dr. Nicole Avena of Department of Psychiatry at the University Of Florida College Of Medicine.

Meaghan Falby, Health teacher, reminds us that “not all sugar is created equal.” The sugar you find on a table is called a simple sugar, meaning it’s fast-acting, whereas your body digests complex sugars much slower than a simple sugar, which is easily digested and more dangerous to the system.

Meaghan warns us that “it has been proven that sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine.” Sugar just like any other drug increases your dopamine levels which is the chemical your brain produces when you are feeling “good”.

When did this marvelous sweetener of life come into being?

It is not known where sugar originated, but it is thought to have first been used in the Polynesian Islands of the Pacific Ocean over 5,000 years ago.

Sugar became popular in southern India and after the Persians conquered that land they readily embraced it, calling sugar cane the “reed which gives honey without bees”. After being traded and transported from various kingdoms and tribes, sugar became one of the most valuable exports of most countries.

When Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, he planted sugarcane here and reported his findings to Spain. People started settling in the Caribbean and other southern isles becoming sugar plantation owners. Sugar became known as “white gold’, and a person who owned a sugar plantation was as rich as a person who owned a gold mine.