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)

Why are there always lemons?

English: Random copolymer brush
English: Random copolymer brush (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m always interested in random happenings. Of course ‘random happenings’ always have a cause. Or less linearly, the whole field of the past results in the outcome at the point in question and all other points at the moment in time under consideration and at future moments in time. Or the space-time continuum is not mutable.

Multiverse
Multiverse (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

Whatever. We have recently had a couple of big storms. it being the winter season, and debris has piled up on the beach. This detritus is mostly of marine origin, mostly seaweed, with a sprinkling of other marine debris, such as mollusc shells, not to mention non-organic materials like rocks and sand.

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Debris. Notice the small pieces of plastic.

There is a noticeable contribution of terrestrial origin of course, like tree trunks, limbs and even foliage. A significant portion is of anthropological origin, such as worked wood and plastic, and even concrete, tarmacadam, glass and metals.

The plastic is interesting. With the exception of the occasional chunks of polystyrene foam or similar, most of the plastic debris is small, like the rings from the necks of plastic topped containers or the teats from the tops of water bottles. (Aside: Why buy water when you can get it from the tap?) Whole bottles are rare for some reason.

IMG_20130712_131406
Debris. If you look carefully you may see a few ballpoint pens.

To get back on topic, one of the things that I’ve noticed about the debris is that some objects tend to be found together – for instance left footed shoes may be found on one beach and right footed shoes on another. There is an unconvincing (to me) theory about this.

IMG_20130712_132614
Right foot shoe

I’ve discovered that things appear to be washed ashore in groups. This may be a statistical aberration, but, for instance, after a recent storm I came across a group of toothbrushes scattered over a relatively small area. Now, there were about a dozen, which rules out a single source, like a flat or house, and they weren’t packaged in any way so that rules out a commercial source, so what could explain it?

Another time the flotsam consisted in part of  what was probably spoon worm corpses. In two particular areas there were hundreds of the disgusting looking things.

IMG_20130712_132603
Debris with lemon

I don’t know the reasons for these groupings, but obviously some set of circumstances must have resulted in these happenings. Of more obvious provenance are the mass strandings of jellyfish at some times of the year which are no doubt related to the breeding cycle of these animals and particular wind direction. The occasional tennis balls or golf balls that I spot are easily explained too.

But…. But there are always lemons. Whenever I walk along the beach after a storm, I can almost guarantee that I will find at least one lemon. Why? I don’t tend to find apples, though apples float too. Nor, typically any other fruits. Maybe apples are softer and easily broken up?

Regardless, there are always lemons. Why are there always lemons?

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Debris with lemon