Nutritional Role Absorption and Metabolism

J Brand-Miller, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sucrose plays a unique role in human diets. It satisfies our instinctual desire for sweetness and contributes an average of 10% of the energy in modern Western diets. Sucrose has many functional roles in foods which extend beyond its sweetness, including preservative, textural, and flavor modifying qualities. Unfortunately, sucrose has a 'bad reputation,' especially in respect of dental caries. In the past, refined sucrose was suggested to cause diabetes, overweight, heart disease, micronutrient deficiencies, and even hyperactivity in children. But within the last decade a wealth of new research on sugars in the diet has shown most of these assumptions to be false. We now know that refined sucrose consumption is much lower than we originally estimated (45-65 g per day instead of 125 g per day in industrialized countries), that intake of sugars correlates inversely with the fat content of the diet (the higher the sugar intake, the lower the fat), and that high-sucrose diets are associated with lower body weight. In addition, new research shows that moderate intake of sugars is associated with the highest intakes of micronutrients and that sucrose-containing foods do not raise the plasma glucose level any more than most starchy foods. While dental caries is still associated with high sucrose consumption in nonindustrialized countries, there is no relationship in developed nations. The intake of fluoride, frequency of food intake, and dental hygiene are more important factors influencing the incidence of dental caries in these countries.

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