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Is Adding Sugar to One’s Morning Tea, Coffee Harmful?

— November 17, 2023

Scientists find no significant difference between adding sugar to a morning pick-me-up and avoiding it.

Sugar has had a bad rap over the years when it comes to including it in a person’s diet. It has been labeled a culprit for acne, fatigue, weight gain, and even the onset of harmful diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. In an effort to still get a source of sweet without these side effects, sugar substitutes became popular, but these have also gotten a less-than-ideal reputation. In fact, products like aspartame have been blamed for much of the same physical effects as sugar, including cancer-related deaths. Given the widespread blame game and confusion, it’s easy to wonder what the best solution is to sweetening food and drinks while minimizing short- and long-term consequences. The key may be to simply savor some sugar in limited amounts.

There are two main types of sugar: glucose and fructose. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells, while fructose is metabolized in the liver. When sugar is consumed, it is broken down into glucose and fructose in the digestive system. Too much sugar can lead to a spike in blood sugar levels, which triggers the release of insulin. Over time, excessive sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistance and an increased risk for diabetes. The American Heart Association (AHA), therefore, recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily, while men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons.

Is Adding Sugar to One's Morning Tea, Coffee Harmful?
Photo by Stas Knop from Pexels

There are many foods which contain natural sugar that are still considered to be a healthy and essential part of one’s daily diet. Fruits and vegetables, for example, contain naturally occurring sugars, which are accompanied by fiber and other nutrients that help slow the absorption of this sugar into the bloodstream. On the other hand, added sugars found in processed items, such as pop, candy, and desserts, are often included for flavor and to extend shelf life, are more harmful and provide little nutritional value.

A recent study performed by researchers in Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, specifically took a look at the effects of adding sugar to one’s daily cup of coffee or tea. The teams wanted to know whether sweetening one of these morning pick-me-ups would have a harmful impact on one’s health. Their findings, which showed that doing so would not bring added harm, were published in PLOS ONETrusted Source.

To arrive at this conclusion, the scientists analyzed data from the Copenhagen Male Study performed in the 1970s, which included men ages 40 to 59. They obtained contact information for 99% of study participants and get in touch with nearly 3,000 men from the original analysis for participation in a new study.

All men who participated had no prior history of heart disease, cancer, or type 2 diabetes when they joined. In addition to those who were still living, the researchers reviewed death records for those who had not survived. They found that there was no significant difference between eating sugar and avoiding it in the categories of mortality, cancer deaths, heart disease deaths, and type 2 diabetes.

Moral of the story? A little bit of sugar each day is not enough to sound alarm bells. However, consuming more than a small amount could be cause for concern. Everything in moderation, as they say.


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