White Sugar Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 08/03/22 •  11 min read
white sugar benefits and side effects


Energy: white sugar is bad for / increases the risk of dementia, developing depression, energy crashes, feelings of hunger, impaired memory, spikes in blood sugar

Longevity: white sugar is bad for / increases the risk of chronic diseases, chronic inflammation, developing gout, fatty liver disease, heart attack and stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, raise blood pressure, type 2 diabetes

Appearance: white sugar is bad for / increases the risk of acne, dental problems, skin aging, visceral fat (a kind of deep belly fat), weight gain, wrinkle formation

White sugar is…


Water footprint: low, it takes 197 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of sugar crops / 24 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of sugar crops

Carbon footprint: high, 3.93 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of refined cane sugar, a car driving equivalent of 9 miles or 14.5 kilometers

Destruction: high, white sugar production is relatively destructive, “loss of natural habitats, intensive use of water, heavy use of agro-chemicals, discharge and runoff of polluted effluent and air pollution, leading to degradation of wildlife, soil, air and water where sugar is produced and of downstream ecosystems, impacts relating to irrigation of sugar cane and pollution runoff are of particular concern”

White sugar is…


Kills: none, white sugar does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, white sugar does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: various animals if filtered using bone char, mainly for White Sugar OR none if sugar is labeled “unrefined” and “organic”, ecosystems and wildlife if filtered using bone char, mainly for White Sugar OR none if sugar is labeled “unrefined” and “organic”

White sugar is typically…


Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

White sugar…

white sugar is acidic.

acidic foods and alkaline diet benefits that improve ph levels

Is white sugar alkaline or acidic? White sugar is acidic. What is the pH level of white sugar? White sugar has a 4.5 pH level, once digested. Sugar is an acidic food group.

When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

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white sugar is gluten free.

glutinous foods have side effects but a gluten free diet can help

Is white sugar gluten free? Yes, white sugar is gluten free. White sugar does not contain gluten.

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

white sugar is not a common food allergen.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Is white sugar a common food allergen? No, white sugar is not a common food allergen. Some people may experience allergic reactions to white sugar but it is relatively rare by comparison.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

These foods account for about 90% of all food allergies in the United States.

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

white sugar likely has a low water footprint.

water footprints of food and products

Does white sugar have a high or low water footprint? White sugar likely has a relatively low water footprint compared to other foods.

What is the water footprint of white sugar? It takes 197 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of sugar crops / 24 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of sugar crops.

Did you know that water is a finite, non-renewable resource?

We must do what we can to conserve fresh water and a major way to reduce needless water consumption is to change the way we eat. That’s not to say we need to reduce our water intake…quite the opposite. It’s important for our health to drink lots of water and eat foods that hydrate. The kind of water conservation we’re talking about here is behind the scenes.

How much water does it take to produce an apple? A serving of rice? A steak dinner?

We need to be aware of “water footprints”. That is, the amount of fresh water utilized in the production or supply of goods we consume. As it turns out it takes significantly more water to yield foods that come from animals than foods that come from plants. Imagine how much water a cow needs to consume to generate a piece of beef. Not only how much water a single cow drinks, rather all the water that went into producing the crops that the cow ate.

Find out how much water your food consumes with this: Water Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

white sugar has a high carbon footprint.

carbon footprints of food and food emissions

Does white sugar have a high or low carbon footprint? White sugar has a relatively high carbon footprint compared to other foods.

What is the carbon footprint of white sugar? It takes around 3.93 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of refined cane sugar, a car driving equivalent of 9 miles or 14.5 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…

There are a number of steps we can take to reduce energy output. According to Oxford Martin School researchers, if the world went vegan, eliminating animal-derived products, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and avoid climate damages of $1.5 trillion.

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

white sugar is unsustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, is white sugar eco friendly? Is white sugar sustainable?

White sugar production is relatively unsustainable due to:

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

A 2010 United Nations report said that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world the worst impacts of climate change.

white sugar is typically not vegan, especially if “refined”. if white sugar is “unrefined” or “organic”, it may be vegan.

benefits of vegan food to eat on a vegan diet which helps save animals

Is white sugar vegan? No, white sugar is not vegan. White sugar is made from beet sugar or cane sugar but during processing often uses bone char, or animal bones, therefore making it an animal-derived food. Various animals are often killed in order to process white sugar. 

According to Sentient Media, “more than 200 million land animals are killed for food around the world every day. Including wild-caught and farmed fishes, we get a total closer to 3 billion animals killed daily.”

Animals of factory farming are suffering. They live in horrific conditions that often include confinement, physical abuse and unnatural environments…so much so that they need to receive antibiotics to keep from getting ill or spreading disease. Growth hormones allow all kinds of animals to become fatter faster and live short lives.

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non-Vegan Foods List

white sugar may have labor issues and human rights concerns.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Is white sugar a product with laborer concerns?

At this time there have been no major concerns with sugar production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may come with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Sadly, many labor concerns exist around the world in both developed and developing countries. We must be vigilant to ensure what we buy is not contributing to industries that are unfair to their valuable workers. Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 


Sugar – NCBI

Get the Facts: Added Sugars | Nutrition | CDC

Sugars, granulated – FoodData Central

WWF: Sugar and the Environment – Encouraging Better Management Practices in Sugar Production and Processing

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.