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My plan was to have a sugar-free month. But now I feel so much better that I can’t imagine going back.
- Olivia Judson
WN: Very doable; reasonable presented.
Three years ago, I stopped eating sugar. My plan was to have a sugar-free month, just to see if it made a difference. I had done similar experiments before – a month without caffeine, or alcohol, or reading news online. Aside from chocolate, I wasn’t a big eater of sugar, I thought, so I didn’t expect to notice any change. But I did.
Giving up sugar set me free. And so, what began as an experiment has become my new life. I have changed in ways that I had not thought possible.
To a chemist, sugar refers to a class of molecules made of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen; some of these serve particular biological roles. Lactose, for example, is found in milk; deoxyribose gives the “D” to DNA. But in daily life, the main sugars one meets are glucose, fructose and sucrose – which is a marriage of the other two. That is, each molecule of sucrose is one glucose linked to one fructose. Interestingly, the two simple sugars have the same chemical formula – six atoms of carbon, 12 of hydrogen, six of oxygen – but different chemical structures. The human tongue detects this: fructose tastes sweeter.
Glucose is synonymous with blood sugar, since it is transported in the blood and delivered to cells to fuel their energetic needs. But you can also find it, along with fructose, in fruits and vegetables. Sucrose is extracted from sugar cane or beets, and is usually encountered as the white crystals of table sugar. When most people speak of “sugar”, they mean sucrose. High-fructose corn syrup, the most common sweetener of non-diet soft drinks, is a mixture of glucose and fructose. So is honey – though honey is a complex concoction that contains many other compounds.
The history of sugar is full of darkness. The European appetite for sweetness drove the slave trade; according to one estimate, in the Americas, two-thirds of enslaved Africans worked on sugar cane plantations. Sugar is also implicated in lung cancer. How? Because the tobacco in blended cigarettes has typically been soaked in sugar syrups; this makes the smoke easier to take into the lungs.
The grim harvest does not stop there. A growing number of doctors blame sugar consumption for a long list of medical woes. These include diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, gout, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, many cancers and perhaps even Alzheimer’s. Some researchers have even linked the eating of sugar in childhood to the development of myopia, arguing that the spikes in insulin secretion caused by sugar consumption interfere with the normal development of the eyes. In short: the recent medical literature about sugar makes alarming reading.
Please click on: Sugar and Diet
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