HOT TOPICS: Sugar—Toxic or Part of a Healthy Diet

Marika Wamback, BSc. R.D.

Registered Dietitian

Sugar—Toxic or Healthy


Is sugar ‘toxic?’  This is a popular question, resulting in many misleading reports and unsubstantiated articles.  The information below clarifies the difference between sugars and their impact on your health and CKD management.

The Suffix ‘Ose’:

Identifying if sugar is in your food is easy.  Look for ingredients that end in ‘ose’. This is how they are identified in medical nutrition vocabulary.  How sugar is absorbed depends on the food it is contained in. How sugar is created depends on its source. For example, glucose is created from the digestion of food in the body.  

Added Sugars

Added sugars are sugars that are added to foods.  Added sugar comes from multiple sources. The most common added sugars come from corn (corn syrup), sugar cane (table sugar), and syrup (maple and birch) to sweeten foods.  The items that these sugars are often added to usually have little nutrition value, such as cakes, pastries, pop, sweetened beverages, refined cereals, and cookies. Refined sugars tend to be absorbed quickly because they are often in foods that contain little nutrition.

The World Health Organization recommends consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars for women and no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar for men per day. (There are 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon).  

On the food label, look for added sugars under the ‘Carbohydrate’ section.  All individuals are encouraged to read food labels and look for added sugars under the ‘Carbohydrate’ section.  The sugars listed will identify how many grams of added sugar is in the food. Added sugars are not toxic, but consuming too much contributes to excess calories in the diet which can lead to weight gain and obesity.  Obesity is a significant risk factor for many health problems.

Naturally Occurring Sugars

These are sugars that are found naturally in dairy, fruit, and some vegetables.  In items with naturally occurring sugars, the carbohydrate source will be from the naturally occurring sugar.  For example, in milk, the carbohydrate source will be from lactose. These items will be listed under the ‘total sugars’ on the food label.  The ingredient list will also identify the sugar source-whether it is natural sugar such as lactose- or added sugar such as sucrose. This does not mean that foods with  added sugar can’t be consumed but it does mean that the amount needs to be limited.   

Naturally occurring sugars are only limited if blood glucose control is necessary.   Most naturally occurring sugars are found in foods containing fibre and protein. This helps slow the digestion and absorption of the naturally occurring sugars into the bloodstream.  For example, the absorption of lactose is slowed by the protein in milk. Fructose, found in fruits and vegetables, is absorbed slowly due to fibre.  

Whether or not you have CKD, focus on the healthy choices you can have, consume a balanced diet, see a registered dietitian for your questions, and limit your added sugar choices.  By focusing on health, you’ll naturally limit your refined sugar intake, leading to a healthier you!


The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. KidneyChef urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. KidneyChef advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency service immediately. KidneyChef does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the website. KidneyChef does not guarantee the accuracy of information on the Website and reliance on any information provided by KidneyChef is solely at your own risk.


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