Nothing is more American than apple pie — or, for that matter, one can say that nothing is more American than baked goods, candy, soda and other such sweets. In fact, it seems that every birthday, holiday, and special occasion is adorned with a homemade cake or a plate of cookies.

Yes, Americans have a special place in their heart for sugar, but sugar — as sweet as it may seem — is poisoning our bodies.

Western culture has come to associate sugar with love. We take medicine with a spoonful of sugar and cure heartache with a tub of ice cream. Although grandma’s double chocolate chip cookies arouse a sense of warmth and nostalgia, the excessive consumption of such treats has led to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and possibly other ailments such as hypertension and some cancers, in America.

Much of our unbalanced diet is due to muddled facts and misinformation surrounding sugar and general health. Despite popular belief, a calorie is not just a calorie.

For instance, consuming 1,000 calories worth of sugar-filled chocolate would have a much worse effect on your body than consuming 1,000 calories worth of glucose-rich potatoes.

The difference, although both products contain sugar, is in the metabolization. While glucose is metabolized throughout the body, fructose is metabolized primarily in the liver. Thus, ingesting the chocolate would create much more work for your liver than the potatoes. What’s more, as sugar is consumed at a faster rate, the toll on the liver increases, so liquids — primarily the sweetheart of American beverages, soda — are especially destructive to the liver and the body in general.

Companies have learned to disguise refined sugar with names like sucrose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, natural cane sugar — the list goes on — but the fact of the matter is that all these sugars are equally harmful and all will produce relatively the same physiological effects on the body.

Not only is sugar an empty calorie, meaning that is contains no vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants, but when consumed, it will either displace more nutritious forms of sustenance or be consumed in excess, causing weight gain.

Nevertheless, if you maintain a generally balanced diet and exercise regularly, there is no immediate need to completely remove sugar from your diet. Anything consumed in unnatural ways or quantities will be harmful to the human body. Even water, when drunk in extreme excess over a specific period of time will result in potentially fatal water-poisoning.

The problem is centered in proportion.

Popular foods, especially those directed toward children, are loaded with excess sugar to artificially enhance the taste.

Children’s breakfast cereals boast about their whole grains, neglecting the abundance of added sugar to jump start a child’s day.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Robert Lustig, professor of clinical pediatrics, asserted that, “Of the 600,000 food items currently in the American grocery store, 80 percent of them have added sugar. Most of your food has been chosen for you.”

To exemplify the extremity of this problem, let’s bring to mind the fact that the American Heart Association recommends the consumption of no more than 36 grams of added sugar a day. A 12 ounce can of Coca Cola contains 39 grams. It’s no wonder that childhood obesity is climbing at an alarming rate.

Despite the negative impact that sweets have created in some people’s lives, the general public should take these sugary warnings with a grain of salt. Eating sugar will not kill you, but if consumed regularly and excessively, it’ll certainly contribute to multiple adverse effects on your body.

It is easy to get sucked into an unhealthy diet, especially at a young age, but it can be maintained with a bit of self-control. Go ahead and indulge in a sugary snack every once in a while, but be mindful of the amount of sugar any one substance contains. If you want to be more health conscious, cutting out soda or replacing a sugary dessert with a piece of fruit will make a large impact on your overall well-being.

Laura Amador graduated from Sonoma Valley High and is now a freshman at Santa Rosa JC. Republished from Sonoma Valley’s Dragon’s Tale student newspaper.