The Importance of Natural Sugars for the Human Body.

Written by Cyndi O'Meara

Cyndi is about educating. Her greatest love is to teach, both in the public arena and within the large corporate food companies, to enable everyone to make better choices so they too can enjoy greater health throughout their lives. Considered one of the world's foremost experts in Nutrition, Cyndi brings over 40 years experience, research and knowledge.
Time To Read: 7 minutes

March 5, 2014

Emerging Technologies are changing the way we live our lives.  Out of the 10 top new emerging technologies around the world, three have to do with the human body and our health. These are not the latest you beaut machines to save lives, they are completely new technologies that will transform medicine and health.

One which is of most importance to me is the emerging technology of glycomics.  This is the field of understanding and ultimately the harnessing of sugar.  Why would anyone want to harness sugar?  But the latest research is revealing that sugar can be converted into a drug to tame the immune system, minimise damage following heart attacks and surgery as well as more drugs that could have an impact on health problems ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to the spread of cancer cells.

For some, sugar is a nasty word to the health conscious, some people even quit sugar, but I guarantee as more information comes to light, sugar will soon be the new health buzz word, just as fat and salt are now emerging as important foods in the diet.

Let’s take a step backward away from glycomics (the new emerging technology) and to the more simple science of glyconutrients, or the science of sugar nutrition.

Myth 1
It has been assumed that all the necessary sugars the body needs can be manufactured from simple glucose. It is now known that this is not the case, but that cells prefer to utilize non-glucose essential sugars. 

Myth 2
Sugar was long thought to be nothing more than a fuel needed for energy; but research is finding out that this is not correct. Sugars are necessary for far more than energy.

It is common knowledge the effects that a vitamin and/or mineral deficiency has on health, and that the wrong types of fats can cause disease.  Since sugars are found on every cell in every organ of the entire anatomy, it should stand to reason that some sugars are also vital for proper function of the body and without them health problems can emerge.

Over the last few decades researchers have slowly uncovered clues to sugar function. Of the more than 200 known sugars, scientists have discovered that eight are essential for optimal function of the body. They are as follows: 
•    Xylose
•    Fucose (not to be confused with fructose, the fruit sugar) 
•    Glucose
•    Galactose 
•    Mannose 
•    N-acetylglucosamine 
•    N-acetylgalactosamine 
•   N-acetylneuraminic acid

You’ve heard about essential fats and amino acids (protein), now there are essential sugars (carbohydrates).  These sugars are absolutely essential to glycosylation this is the adding of sugar to the protein on the cell membrane to help with cell communication.  Without glycosylation there is no life. Theses sugars coat each and every cell in the body. They are now known to be the actual communicators between cells — and not the proteins as was once thought. This cellular communication system is known scientifically as “multicellular intelligence” which determines what nutrients and substances are needed for the health and wellbeing of that particular cell and its function.  In other words without these communicators there can be no organised life. 

If cells do not have the right sugars, they are unable to send the proper messages of what their needs are. For instance, essential sugars are very important in establishing blood types – O, A, B, and AB. They can literally determine life or death, not only for each individual cell, but eventually for the organ for which it is responsible.

The body, can in theory, produce the other 7 essential sugars from glucose but it is a long, energy draining process for the body.  If there are any enzyme, genetic, metabolic, disease, free radical, toxic load or other problems in the body, the sugars are not created properly or in enough quantities and the person will eventually become sick.

Sugars also help the brain and nervous system – from memory and sleep to anxiety and depression. In addition, they have a role in helping the body control cholesterol and fats by lowering triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) while, at the same time, raising the high density lipoproteins (HDL). 

Another important essential sugar function is to help retain bone density and muscle mass. The body undergoes wear and tear as it ages. Cells and tissues need to be replaced, remodeled, and renewed continually. Exercise helps the body to develop new blood vessels while increasing muscle mass. Certain kinds of tissues adapt to exercise by increasing the size and number of cells. Adaptation, healing, and recovery are all forms of tissue remodeling. Essential sugars play important roles in these processes.

Historically, scientists theorized that all glycoprotein sugars were constructed from the glucose we eat.  This theory stood for many years without testing.  Recently, however, new technology has enabled testing of this glucose only theory.  It proved false.  We now know that the body not only absorbs these various essential sugars intact from the gastrointestinal tract, but, in many cases, prefers to obtain them from diet.  Obtaining these sugars from dietary sources is more efficient than obtaining them through multi step enzymatic conversions from glucose because less energy and less time is required.

So if you want optimal health long term, it is essential to eat the right foods with the sugars in them.  Following is a table that lists the sugar and the food sources;

Food sources of the eight essential sugars
Essential Sugar Food Source

Guava, Pears, Blackberries, Loganberries, Raspberries, Aloe Vera gel, Kelp, Echinacea, Psyllium, Broccoli, Spinach, Eggplant, Peas, Green Beans, Okra, Cabbage, Corn.

medicinal mushrooms, seaweeds, kelp, wakame, brown seaweed and brewers yeast.

There is obviously no shortage of glucose in the average diet, but the following list provides some better sources of dietary glucose; honey, grapes, bananas, cherries, strawberries, mangoes, cacao, aloe vera, liquorice herb, sarsaparilla herb, hawthorn, garlic, kelp, Echinacea and rapadura

dairy products, most fruits but highest in mango, plums, rhubarb, prunes, orange, nectarine, peach and blackberries. Echinacea, fenugreek, chestnuts, most vegetables but highest in carrot, brussel sprouts, leeks, asparagus, pumpkin, parsnip, cauliflower, onions and cabbage.

black or red currants, gooseberries, green beans, capsicum (cayenne pepper), cabbage, aloe vera gel, fenugreek, guar gum, eggplant, tomatoes, turnips, shiitake mushrooms, and kelp.

Bovine (gelatine) and Shark cartilages.

bovine and Shark cartilage (Shark cartilage should not be used by diabetics or those with kidney disease.), shiitake mushrooms

N-acetylneuraminic acid (sialic acid)
whey and hen eggs and other animal and human substances.

The first time I was introduced to the science of sugar nutrition was when my sister in law told me she gave her old dog, glucosamine tablets for his arthritis and it worked.  Glucosamine a derivative of n-acetylglucosamine, is a very popular natural remedy for osteoarthritis in humans.  Mannose is now sold as a remedy for urinary tract infections.  Xylitol a refined sugar alcohol of xylose is now sold as a sugar in health food stores as is mannitol the sugar alcohol of mannose.  I like to get the two sugars from unrefined sources. Without us even knowing these essential sugars are being implemented into our daily lives.  Make it a point to learn about these sugars and implement them into your diet.

Studies have shown that the following is a list of the assets of the eight essential sugars but by no means is this list complete.

•    Potent antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, and antitumor effects 
•    Helps immune cells recognize invaders by increasing intelligent cell communication 
•    Enables cellular components to “stick” to each other so as initiate the right reactions 
•    Raises natural killer cell and macrophage counts against infectious organisms 
•    Increases the body’s resistance to viruses, including those that cause the common cold, influenza, herpes, and hepatitis 
•    Activates immune T-cell activity only when invaders or antigens are present 
•    Reduces allergies and chronic disease symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV, cancer, kidney disease, and others 
•    Decreases cell death in chronic fatigue syndrome 
•    Elevates disease resistance in weakened individuals 
•    Accelerates burn and wound healing 
•    Helps heal skin conditions such as poison ivy and psoriasis 
•    Reduces the number of recurrent ear infections 
•    Acts as antioxidant compounds 
•    Protects the body against toxin and pollutant exposure 
•    Slows the aging process

It all seems too good to be true, but I look at this in perspective.  The body is an amazing machine; we do not know everything about it.  Every time I read research, especially new emerging research, I realise that the complexity of the body is far beyond the reaches of science as we know it today.  The tip of the iceberg is what we know.  The wisdom of the body is far reaching, it knows what to do, it knows how to be healthy but it needs the right fuel.  Glyconutrient research is just another area that tells me more and more that natural foods from nature are the best foods to eat.  Not technology driven foods or processed foods.  Check through the list of foods that contain the eight essential sugars and make sure you eat them on a regular basis and if you are not eating them then add them to your diet.

We need to trust in the body’s ability to do the right thing.  The research is great but the bottom line still says the same thing.  Nature has provided the food that the body needs for health, the manipulation of food by technology, which now lines our supermarket shelves is an abomination to the intelligence of the human body.

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  1. VickI

    This is a very excellent article, explaining sugar as the essential nutrient that it is. I think, however, that it should be balanced with the dangers of overuse of sugar, even from dietary sources, but especially from the rampant overuse of refined sugars, as is prevalent in the general western diet. It might also be helpful to know what percentages might be recommended from the various food sources, such as fruit, as opposed to sea sources, vegetable sources, and animal sources. Thanks again for this very informative article.

  2. Lesa Prendergast

    I found this information very much an eye opener. To see the other side of the sugar story is great. Making educated decisions about how we fuel our body is essential, this means looking at research that tells the whole story. Thank you for sharing this information.


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