At last the problems caused by sugar are starting to be recognised. For many years fat has been blamed for the rise in obesity and other health problems, but little attention has been paid to sugar. Unfortunately, when John Yudkin warned of the dangers of sugar in his book, Pure, White and Deadly, back in 1972, he was largely ignored.
If you ask most people if they eat a lot of sugar, they will say they don’t as they tend to think of grains in a bowl. But while sales of loose sugar have declined, our consumption has in fact trebled over the past 50 years. We are eating sugar but don’t realise it because it is hidden in prepared products, from soups and sauces to pizza, crisps, ready meals, bacon and bread. Each week the average Briton consumes well over 100 teaspoons of added sugar, often without knowing it.
Sometimes we are misled because the word ‘sugar’ does not appear on the label. Instead, manufacturers are cleverly using other names for what is basically sugar and often making it from healthy sounding foods, such as fruit, vegetables and milk. One of the worst offenders is corn. This seemingly innocent ingredient is transformed into high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) by the food industry, and because it is cheap to make, it is frequently used in ready prepared food.
Many of the low-fat foods on the market have been adding to the problem as they are often manufactured with extra sugar to make them palatable. It’s the same with commercially produced ‘free-from’ foods: remove gluten and you need something to bind ingredients in bread and cakes, so extra sugar is used. Other forms of sugar, some of which are used as supposedly healthy alternatives to sugar, such as agave syrup, maple syrup and honey, are still made up of glucose and fructose. A simple sugar is a simple sugar and its consumption needs to be limited on a daily basis for our health’s sake.