Carbohydrates, sugars and those clever infographics

We’re looking at sugar cube info graphics this week. Dr James DiNicolantonio tweeted about his latest academic paper, but it was the graphic in the tweet that caught my eye. Sugar cube graphics are becoming increasingly common. Every other week, in the media, there seems to be a headline screaming: “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH SUGAR IS IN YOUR X?” where X is a flavoured coffee, or sandwich, or anything else where you’re supposed to be surprised sugar is found.

The graphic had no label to describe exactly what the sugar cubes were supposed to represent, so I decided to get to the bottom of it. This proved to be very interesting to look into. The full exploration can be seen below. The headlines are as follows:

What are carbohydrates?

The investigation needed to start with an understanding of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be categorised as: mono (one) saccharides (sugars); di (two) saccharides (sugars); and poly (many) saccharides (sugars). Hopefully you’re already wondering what the difference is between carbohydrates and sugar and you would be right to wonder!

The full note below has a really useful summary of monosaccharides; disaccharides and polysaccharides. You will have heard of glucose, fructose, sucrose, starch, fibre – where do they all fit in? Which are digestible and which can’t we digest?

The key takeaway message from this carbohydrate section is that, during digestion, all carbohydrates need to be broken down into monosaccharides (simple sugars) to be absorbed. This means that all digestible carbohydrate either is, or breaks down into, sugar.



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