In recent years, sugar has become the O.J Simpson of foods. Once an innocent delight, loved for the smiles it brought to kids’ faces, it now languishes on dietary death row with armchair prosecutors around the world decrying its great evils.
The social media jury has a point.
After years of ignorant bliss, we are finally noticing the effects of the sheer volume of sugar that we’ve been consuming – and they’re not good. Up until a few hundred years ago, sugary foods were a luxury and not as widely accessible, given the lack of refrigeration and preserving techniques. Simpler farming methods meant fruit seasons were shorter, so people didn’t consume large quantities of natural fruit sugars either.
Today sugar is in just about every damn thing. From spices to sauces, from beer to bread, from steak pies to sausages – yes, check the ingredients in certain brands – it sneaks in and sticks to your hips when you least expect it.
It is estimated that by the time a child is 8 years old, they will have consumed as much sugar as an adult did in their entire lifetime 100 years ago.
The mass hysteria – the reason babies are being denied Marie Biscuits for teething and 5 year olds are consuming carrots and hummus at birthday parties – is because recent studies have shown us what happens when we eat uninhibited quantities of sugar.
According to one, there are 30% more obese people in the world today than undernourished people. That’s 30% more fat Americans than starving Africans, to use a Western world cliché. In 2011, there were 366 million diabetics in the world — more than double the number in 1980, and 5 per cent of the total population at the time.
Remember when you didn’t know anyone with diabetes? It wasn’t that long ago that it was a different disease, one that was only linked to genetics rather than lifestyle. Add to those high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, depression and addictive overeating disorders, and you have a well-rounded view of sugar’s evil clutches.
Previously many of these conditions were thought to be linked to saturated fats. We’ve debunked that myth – you can read my thoughts on dietary fats here – but what you may not know is that when the food industry cut back on fat content, they replaced it with something else. Take the fats out of food and you end up munching on cardboard, so what’s a profit-seeking conglomerate to do?
They replaced fats with carbohydrates. High fructose corn syrup and sucrose, to be precise. 40 years ago, food manufacturers everywhere took away fats and replaced them with sugar.
And here we are in 2016, watching reality shows like the Biggest Loser and Huge, a documentary series about kids at fat camp.
Sugar presents a serious problem to our health and finally we ‘re taking notice. But given the invisible presence of sugar in modern food, how can we combat our excessive consumption?
In the next post, I’ll talk about alternatives to sugar and explore the pros and cons of so-called natural sweeteners.