Too Much Sweetness

English: Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (...
English: Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

English: Basic overview of energy and human li...
English: Basic overview of energy and human life (See also Wikipedia:Energy#Energy_and_life). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

WLA vanda English Tea Set 18th century
WLA vanda English Tea Set 18th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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).

The aldehyde form of glucose
The aldehyde form of glucose (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Chocolate cake with white chocolate squiggles.
Chocolate cake with white chocolate squiggles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Soft drinks 800x600
Soft drinks 800×600 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Portuguese cuisine - Azorean sweet desserts
Portuguese cuisine – Azorean sweet desserts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

English: This is a graph showing the rate of o...
English: This is a graph showing the rate of obesity in adults and the rate of being overweight in both children and adults in the United States from 1960 – 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

A plate of fairy bread, cut into triangles.
A plate of fairy bread, cut into triangles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

English: Organically produced blackstrap molas...
English: Organically produced blackstrap molasses produced in Paraguay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Milestones


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The previous post that I made was the 200th since I started writing this blog. I started in January 2013 and intended, at the time to make it about cooking and my successes and failures in that respect. However the cooking has pretty much disappeared (at least for now) and I’ve been writing about things like science, politics and philosophy. It’s strange how things turn out!

200 posts mean 200,000 words, more or less. However some of the early ones are shorter and so I’ve probably not quite reached the 200,000 word point yet. I aim to keep going at least until I hit 250 posts which implies a word count of 250,000 or so.

Marker post, Tattenham Corner - geograph.org.u...
Marker post, Tattenham Corner – geograph.org.uk – 923637 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I, and most other bloggers I guess, blog about things that interest me. I don’t do it as a job, and I don’t seek out to address any particular set of people or demographic. I just hope that what I write is at least mildly interesting to those who stumble across it. I have around 100 “followers”, people who have subscribed to this blog, but I can’t tell how many of those skip over the emails that tell them that I have posted a new article.

Posting articles must fulfil some need that I have, but I don’t really know what it is. This is the first time that I’ve done something like this and not failed to keep it going. My random ramblings don’t spring out of a need to “reach out” to those out there. I don’t have a burning desire to see that my message is promulgated to all that will listen. I don’t even have a message.


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Nevertheless, blogs are a way of putting out there the things that interest me, like science, religion, and, basically, philosophy. It’s not a way of sorting out my thoughts and rubbing the rough edges off of my ideas. I don’t even think that my ideas are unique! When I do what little research I do while writing these articles, I often stumble across some article that addresses the same issues that I am writing about, probably in a more organised and coherent way.

I cite Wikipedia quite often, not because I think that it is the best reference collection on the Internet, but because I can almost always find an article on there on whatever topic I am searching for. Wikipedia is often criticised for being potentially inaccurate, and to some extent that is true as it is maintained by enthusiastic amateurs, after all. It does represent a good starting point for research and is generally not that bad.

Wikipedia events haunt you forever. It's true....
Wikipedia events haunt you forever. It’s true. I heard it on the internet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I started blogging I didn’t have any time schedule in mind, and I hadn’t settled on the target article size of 1000 words. As I recall the first few posts were sporadic and short. Some of the really early ones have been removed. It wasn’t until I settled on an article size of 1000 words and a publishing schedule of once a week that the blog took off (so far as I was concerned anyway) and I have been able to maintain the schedule over the last three years or so.

I originally intended to publish on a Saturday. This has slipped to Monday and I write these articles mainly on a Sunday. I’ve maintained this schedule for three years or so, and the nearest that I came to breaking the chain was when my sister was visiting and I didn’t have the time to write the articles. After she left I worked out how many weeks that I had missed and wrote and published the missing articles over a couple of weeks. It was one of the hardest things that I’ve done.


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I’ve taken inspiration from other bloggers. A friend of mine has a blog that he, until fairly recently updated with his photographs on a daily basis for many years. Well done, Brian!

Deadlines and milestones are, for me, the key to keeping up with this blog. Making a contract with myself to publish weekly affects no one else, unless someone out there is really waiting on the latest instalment of the blog, which I doubt.

English: Deadline Falls on the North Umpqua River
English: Deadline Falls on the North Umpqua River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Douglas Adams said about deadlines : “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” However, when I’ve blogged before I’ve found that missing a deadline has been fatal to my attempts to keep a blog going. Sure, I’ve missed a few but caught up again, and my self-imposed deadline has slipped a couple of times, so there must be other factors.

I think that I probably passed a watershed where I might have stopped if I missed a deadline and that watershed may have been at the 50 or so mark, where I would have been reaching about a year of posts. Anyway the longevity of the blog certainly aids in continuing when things get sticky.


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Things do get sticky. Sometimes I sit down to write, on a Sunday usually, and nothing comes to mind. I’ve never experienced a total “writer’s block”, though. I get through it by basically waffling about something until a theme comes to mind. That is not the case this time though!

Milestones are what we strive for. I want to keep going at least until the 250 post mark, but earlier on in the blog the milestones were far more modest. When I reached 50 posts that was a significant milestone, as where 100, 150, and now, 200.

Madagascar milestone
Madagascar milestone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Milestones show us how far we have come, and if we have a destination in mind, how far we have to go. The thing about milestones is that they shouldn’t be too far apart, and indeed a mile could probably be very loosely described as a reasonable distance that can be covered in a reasonable amount of time, and is roughly one thousand paces as measured by Roman legions on the march.

If milestones (general ones, not the specific distance related ones) are too far apart, then we often break that distance down into smaller parts. For instance, if we have a boring job to do, say weeding a garden we may break it into chunks – this bit to that shrub, then that bit to the peonies, then the bit to the small tree, and so on.

Maple Walnut Fudge chunks. From 'Truffles, Can...
Maple Walnut Fudge chunks. From ‘Truffles, Candies & Confections” by Carole Bloom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All the smaller, quicker to accomplish tasks give targets that are short to complete but which still add up to the larger goal in the end. It’s funny how we fool ourselves in this and other ways.


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