Sugar is a the name given by chemists to a family of compounds comprised of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen in various configurations. Generally there are the same number of Carbon and Oxygen atoms and twice as many Hydrogen atoms, but this is not always true.
So far as I know all living things contain sugars, which supply the body with energy through a complex series of chemical reactions which function to slow down the release of energy from the sugar, which would otherwise be released in an unusable burst of energy.
The end result of these reactions is the release of water and carbon dioxide. The cycle of reactions needs as many Oxygen molecules as there are sugar molecules, more or less, assuming the the sugar is fully broken down, and that is why all living things need to take in Oxygen and why we breath out carbon dioxide.
We don’t normally notice the sugar that we take into our bodies as it is largely contained in the foods that we eat. With the exception of the sugar in our tea and that we may scatter on our cereals, it is invisible to us. We actually take in a lot of sugar when we eat things.
In fact we are told that we take in far too much sugar in a modern diet. People drink tea and coffee with sugar, or drink copious amounts of sugar filled soft drinks and we know that this is bad for us. It rots our teeth and makes us fat. It predisposes us to diabetes and other metabolic problems.
The reason that it makes us fat is because early humans (and other animals) had a life which saw feasts and famines as the food supply fluctuated. The body evolved to take advantage of the feast phases by storing energy for the famine times by converting the excess sugars that were ingested to fat. Fat is harder to break down to release its stored energy, and the body preferentially uses any sugars circulating in the body (in the form of glucose).
As a species we have a taste for sugar. The body wants to take in as much as it can, in order to keep itself running, and to store up energy as fat for the lean times. However, these days, there are rarely any truly lean times for most people, so they take in more sugars than they need and store it as fat.
There is debate sometimes as to whether or not our desire for sugar amounts to an addition. Personally I don’t feel that it is truly an addiction, just a very strong desire to eat as much sugar containing food as possible. People don’t suffer intense reaction to the withdrawal of sugar from their diet as they would if it were an addition.
Generally they don’t suffer hallucinations, pains, or other mental or physical symptoms. Quite often they even feel better. Quite often they lose weight. Diabetes symptoms may abate, they may sleep better, and other physical problems may disappear.
It seems a no brainer that we should reduce the amount of sugar that we consume in our food and drink, yet we continue to consume it to excess. In my opinion there are at least three reasons for this.
Firstly, the body itself makes us crave sugary foods, as it has evolved to make us feel pleasure when eating something that it can use for fuel and additionally store up for the leaner times that never come. We are predisposed to like sweet things, and our experience tells us that a chocolate bar is sweet.
Secondly, we have been given sweet things as a treat from the time that we are small, and we expect our treats to be sweet. In a restaurant the main course is about protein, usually with some meat or other as the star, but desserts are treats and therefore must be loaded with sugar.
Thirdly, it is absurdly easy to obtain sugar these days. The confectionery aisle of the supermarket has the most shelf space. Cakes and desserts take up shelves of their own, as do soft drinks which are laced with sugar.
That’s a big issue. Everything has sugar in it these days. In the past there was sugar in many things, but I believe that the quantity of sugar was lower. These days there is a large slug of sugar in almost everything.
It’s even crept into the main course. Glazes and marinades have always had sugar in them as the sugar caramelises on the meat as it cooks, and gives it a nice colour, but many pouring sauces and dressings also contain copious amounts of sugar. Even the humble meat pie contains sugar or so I heard. Something to do with giving the right consistency to the gravy, I believe. So what was wrong with the original ways of thickening it?
This has all led to an issue, so far as I am concerned. I can see all the health benefits of reducing one’s intake of sugar, but so far as others are concerned their bodies are their own responsibility. If they wish to make themselves fat and ill, that is up to them.
What really annoys me about the sugar in everything trend is that almost everything tastes of sugar! I gave up sugar in tea many decades ago, and I didn’t miss it, but now I hate the taste of tea with sugar in it. I can’t drink it. I also gave up sugar on my morning cereal, which was harder, but I now don’t miss it. There’s already some sugar in it of course so why add more?
But everything else? Everything that you touch at the supermarket is laced with sugar, from the white stuff they call bread to the pickles and sauces you put in your sandwich. As a result, you can’t taste much of anything under the overpowering sweet taste.
Someone once commented when I complained about the overbearing sweet taste of everything, that I could just make my own. That’s fine, and I do do it as much as I can, but it’s not always possible, as the ingredients may already contain sugar, and sometimes i just wants the convenience of picking something off the shelf.