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Does Natural Sugar Turn Into Fat?

Sugars are carbohydrates, and are closely related to starch from a chemical perspective. When you consume sugars, there are many different things that your cells can do with them; the specific use of sugars depends upon your body's needs at the time. One possible metabolic fate of sugar is conversion into fat.

"Natural" Sugar

While it seems that there must be a difference between "natural" and "artificial" sugar in terms of how the body processes the foods you eat, there's actually no such distinction. Sugars occur naturally--they're made by plants through the process of photosynthesis--but they can also be made "artificially" by chemically modifying starches. Regardless of whether a sugar comes from nature or from the lab, your body processes it absolutely identically.

Sugar Chemistry

There are many different kinds of sugars that you take in as a part of diet. Glucose is one of the most ubiquitous sugars; it's also called dextrose. Fructose is fruit sugar. There's also sucrose, lactose and maltose, which go by table sugar, milk sugar and malt sugar, respectively. Regardless of the seemingly great variety of sugars you can consume, however, their fates in the body are very similar once you've digested and absorbed them.

Fat

One of the ways your cells can process sugar is by converting it into fat. This takes place through partially burning the sugar, producing a small amount of energy and yielding a molecule called acetyl-CoA. Your body can then make fat using the acetyl-CoA and a number of enzymes, which are large proteins that help speed and regulate chemical reactions in the body. The reason you produce fat from sugar is that it's a convenient storage form of calories.

Other Uses

Making fat isn't the only thing your cells can do with sugar, however. You can burn sugars for immediate energy--glucose is a particularly important energy source, as it's the favorite fuel of the brain--or use them to make precursors for some other molecules. You can also use them to make glycogen, which is a carbohydrate made by and stored in the liver and muscles, where it's an important emergency sugar supply.

References (3)

  • “Biochemistry”; Reginald Garrett, Ph.D. and Charles Grisham, Ph.D.; 2007
  • “Biochemistry”; Mary Campbell, Ph.D. and Shawn Farrell, Ph.D.; 2005
  • “Human Physiology”; Lauralee Sherwood, Ph.D.; 2004

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.