It's becoming increasingly clear that sugar just isn't good for us humans. Last August, National Geographic ran an article about sugar that covers some of the problem.
Columbus planted the New World's first sugarcane in Hispaniola, the site, not coincidentally, of the great slave revolt a few hundred years later. Within decades mills marked the heights in Jamaica and Cuba, where rain forest had been cleared and the native population eliminated by disease or war, or enslaved. The Portuguese created the most effective model, making Brazil into an early boom colony, with more than 100,000 slaves churning out tons of sugar.In addition to being tied tightly with the history of slavery, sugar also simply isn't good for humans. For one thing, it tends to be addictive.
As more cane was planted, the price of the product fell. As the price fell, demand increased. Economists call it a virtuous cycle - not a phrase you would use if you happened to be on the wrong side of the equation. In the mid-17th century sugar began to change from a luxury spice, classed with nutmeg and cardamom, to a staple, first for the middle class, then for the poor.
The more you tasted, the more you wanted. In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.Emphasis added.
The rate of diseases caused by sugar has gone up:
"It seems like every time I study an illness and trace a path to the first cause, I find my way back to sugar."As it turns out, more and more studies are showing that sugar itself is toxic to humans. In other words, sugar is slowly but surely killing us. And it's doing it in an insidious way:
Richard Johnson, a nephrologist at the University of Colorado Denver, was talking to me in his office in Aurora, Colorado, the Rockies crowding the horizon. He's a big man with eyes that sparkle when he talks. "Why is it that one-third of adults [worldwide] have high blood pressure, when in 1900 only 5 percent had high blood pressure?" he asked. "Why did 153 million people have diabetes in 1980, and now we're up to 347 million? Why are more and more Americans obese? Sugar, we believe, is one of the culprits, if not the major culprit."
Excessive sugar isn't just empty calories; it’s toxic.Sugar makes you tired, when you are tired you don't exercise. Sugar is addictive. It makes you eat more of it, which makes you more tired. You stop exercising, you run out of energy and eventually you get to the point where you are dying. And what's killing you is sugar, a poison.
"It has nothing to do with its calories," says endocrinologist Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco. "Sugar is a poison by itself when consumed at high doses."
Johnson summed up the conventional wisdom this way: Americans are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little. But they eat too much and exercise too little because they're addicted to sugar, which not only makes them fatter but, after the initial sugar rush, also saps their energy, beaching them on the couch.
And the worst thing about it? Sugar is added to foods that have less fat because we thought it was the FAT that was killing us... and so these high-sugar low-fat foods are just as poisonous, if not more so, than the full fat foods.
If sugar is so bad for us, why do we crave it? The short answer is that an injection of sugar into the bloodstream stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain that respond to heroin and cocaine.Apparently humans very efficiently process fructose and we need very very little of it. But now we have unlimited amounts of it, which we don't need and we desperately crave. And that's why we are becoming obese.
The answer is NOT to replace sugar with fake sugar. The answer is to adjust diets to not eat as much sugar. It should be a treat, not the main ingredient in almost every food we eat. It is hard, if not impossible, to avoid high levels of sugars in our foods. But we need to start working on it. As a society. We need to get ourselves off sugar.