Sweet Truths That Refute Common Myths About Sugar

myths and facts
Photograph courtesy of The Sugar Association

There are many myths about sugar, including several about how it’s made and why it is added to food. Here are some of the most common myths consumers are seeking answers to and some clarifying facts so you can provide them with the information they need.

MYTH: Americans consume more added sugars now than ever before.

FACT: U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that added sugars intake decreased by 30% from 2000 to 2016.1,2 In 2015-2016, added sugars consumption amounted to 12.6% of total calories, or around 260 calories per day. Current intakes are only about 60 calories above the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation of up to 10% of calories from added sugars per day.

MYTH: Sugar is highly processed.

FACT: Sugar is a minimally processed food; consumers can even extract sugar at home if they want. Sugar is simply removed from the plant, washed, crystallized, spun and dried. The same sugar found naturally in the plant is what ends up in the pantry. Whether sugar comes from sugar beets or sugar cane, the purification process is similar for each plant and the result is the same pure sucrose.

MYTH: “Reduced sugar” always means reduced calories.

FACT: When sugar is removed from a food, new ingredients need to be added to replace both the flavor and functionality of sugar. These ingredients often bring the same amount or even more calories to a product than sugar does. So, before making the assumption that less sugar means fewer calories, compare product labels to see what the entire nutrient package of a product is.

MYTH: White sugar is bleached.

FACT: Real sugar is naturally white. The sugar juice extracted from the sugar beet or sugar cane plants is filtered to remove the non-sugar plant materials like soil and plant fibers and then the juice is crystallized. The crystals go through a few cycles of washing and spinning in a centrifuge to remove the naturally present brown molasses, resulting in white sugar.

MYTH: Sugar is hidden in food.

FACT: Sugar can be found on the ingredient list of many foods and beverages and now, the amount of all added sugars in products can be found on the nutrition facts label. Sugar is added to foods for more than its sweet taste. Sugar has functional roles like providing texture, increasing bulk, aiding fermentation & preservation and many other functions.

MYTH: Sugar is addictive.

FACT: Scientific evidence does not support the idea that sugar (or any other foodstuff) can be addictive.4,5,6,7 Eating something enjoyable increases dopamine in the same way all pleasurable experiences do, but addiction and pleasure are not the same thing.


  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Food Surveys Research Group. Food Patterns Equivalents Databases and Datasets. Available at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=23869. Updated September 20, 2018. Accessed June 1, 2020.
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Food Surveys Research Group. WWEIA data tables. Available at: https:// www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/beltsville-md-bhnrc/beltsville-human-nutrition-research- center/food-surveys-research-group/docs/wweia-data-tables/. Accessed June 1, 2020.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th ed. Available at: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Published December 2015. Accessed June 1, 2020.
  4. Westwater ML, Fletcher PC, Ziauddeen H. Sugar addiction: the state of the science. Eur J Nutr. 2016;55(Suppl 2):55–69.
  5. Benton D, Young HA. A meta-analysis of the relationship between brain dopamine receptors and obesity: a matter of changes in behavior rather than food addiction? Int J Obes (Lond). 2016;40(Suppl 1):S12–S21.
  6. Rogers PJ. Food and drug addictions: similarities and dierences. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2017;153:182–190.
  7. Hauck C, Book B, Ellrott T. Food addiction, eating addiction and eating disorders. Proc Nut Soc. 2020;79(1):103-112.

This post is sponsored by Sugar Association, Inc.