But what does the food insulin index data have to say about sugar? Is it any different to other forms of carbohydrate?
The chart below of sugar content versus insulin demand indicates that sugar plays some role in insulin, however the correlation is weak, at least compared to carbohydrate. If we want to manage our insulin load we’re probably best to consider our total carbohydrates rather than isolating sugar alone as the only problem.
I ran a correlation analysis on the food insulin index data to see if sugar had a unique effect on insulin compared to non-sugar carbohydrate.
The data suggests that sugar does not generate more insulin than other forms of carbohydrates. If anything sugar requires slightly less insulin on a gram for gram basis compared to carbohydrates.
This could be because sugar is metabolised quickly and the body pushes out a short burst of insulin to clear the sugar from the blood rather than a long persistent effort which might be the case for a lower glycemic index carbohydrate.
This is not to say that sugar is good for you. There are obvious issues with consuming significant amounts of sugar including:
- Sugar has no fibre and has a very high calorie density so it is not filling and you can end up eating lots of it without feeling full.
- Refined sugar has a very low nutrient density, and your body is left searching for nutrition in more food and hence will be prone to over consume calories.
- Sugar will cause your blood sugar to rise quickly, your body will produce a burst of insulin which will cause your blood sugar to subsequently crash after the insulin surge and leave you feeling hungry again, craving more sugar to make you feel ‘right’ again.
By contrast, the carbohydrates in non-starchy veggies (e.g. spinach, kale, avocado, asparagus) come packaged with fibre, digest slowly and will leave you feeling full, raise your blood sugar gently and are very hard to overeat. .
If you have some form of metabolic dis-regulation (e.g. diabetes, obesity etc) then you need to be thinking about everything that raises your insulin, not just sugar.
[next article… glycemic load versus insulin load… which one is best?]
[this post is part of the insulin index series]
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 I’m not going to deliver into the fructose / glucose issue. If you want to go there check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM or the condensed Shaun Croxton version at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdMjKEncojQ