Sugar has been blamed for everything from hyperactivity to heart disease. Yet despite their efforts to pin the rap on this supposed villain, scientists have been unable substantiate many of the claims against sugar.

Complex carbohydrates (found in starches, whole-grain breads, vegetables) do contain sugar, but it's the simple-carbohydrate sugars -- often found in candies, cakes, white breads, and some fruits -- that cause nutritionists the most concern.

Some of the verdicts on sugar to date:

GUILTY AS CHARGED

Sugar doesn't in and of itself cause obesity. But if your calorie intake increases because you're indulging in sugary foods, you're going to gain weight. Many sugary foods have little nutritional value. So if you're eating them instead of more healthful foods, you could be cheating yourself out of important vitamins and minerals.

Sugar is associated with tooth decay. Sugar has been associated with lower levels of "good" blood cholesterol.

JURY'S STILL OUT

Medical studies have so far failed to establish a direct link between sugar intake and these conditions: cardiovascular disease, hypertension, hyperactivity in children.

REDEEMING QUALITY

Sugary foods eaten before a workout or athletic competition can provide energy.