Is it possible to imagine our life without sugar and sweet taste? Practically it is impossible, as sweet products are important part of diet or all people for many centuries. To understand the reason for the human addiction to sugar, we had to turn to other, less-known facts: the influence of sugar on the brain and the immune system, its relationship with stress, mood and lifestyle.
In this paper it is necessary to speak of what is sugar, and why people desire sweetness. Also it is necessary to speak about sugar cane and other products used by people to satiate their need for sweetness.
Sugar is a class of crystalline compounds, simple carbohydrates, which include sucrose, lactose, glucose. They are found in large quantities in sugar cane, sugar beets, fruits, honey, maple syrup … Sugars are also present in some cereals, but in much smaller numbers. According to scientists, sweet foods are excellent energy suppliers, it is a popular fuel cells in our body. So-called simple carbohydrates does not require long digestion and are transported directly into the bloodstream. As a result, sugar level in blood increases and person feels a lot of energy. Scientifically speaking, sweet foods and, of course, the food sugar, are foods with high glycemic index. The glycemic index indicates how quickly the body processes a specific product to generate energy. Foods with low glycemic index (complex carbohydrates), like whole grains, starchy vegetables and fruits – are digested longer, allowing the gradual transportation of sugar in the blood. That is, the body gets the necessary energy slowly and gradually. (Saulo 2005)
The history of sugar goes back several millennia ago in India and China. The first definite date in the history of sugar can be regarded as 510 BC, when soldiers of the Persian Emperor Darius saw sugar cane growing on the banks of Indian rivers. Sugar cane became the first source of sugar. Much later, cane were grown in Persia and later the Arabs brought him to Egypt. The word sugar came from the Arabic language. Alexander of Macedon (356 – 232 years. BC) introduced the sugar in the Mediterranean countries, from where it spread to the east coast of Africa. (Sharpe 1998)
In VI century AD, the practice of collecting sugarcane juice and its subsequent melting to produce crystalline sugar was widespread. Six hundred years later, when Marco Polo visited China, he saw amazing sugar mill. In the middle of the XV century sugar mills were spread in on Madeira, the Canary Islands, on St. Thomas. (Sharpe 1998)
Sugar became known to Europeans only in the Middle Ages: the Crusaders brought it from the East as “new spice”. Then the sugar was available only for the elite and remained a true luxury for a few centuries. For the production of “white gold” as called Sugar British colonists, the millions of slaves were transported from Africa to the Americas at the beginning of the XVI century. The new “spice” was sold at very high prices and in different forms: powdered sugar, a cone-shaped, shapeless Sugar. For example, in the early 14th century in England people gave gave 44 pounds sterling for 1 pound of sugar, based on the current price (about $ 1 per teaspoon!). And in the next century, the sugar remains an expensive product for the consumption of which there were a range of means: silver spoons, tweezers, special screens for sugar. (Sharpe 1998)
East remained the major supplier of sugar to Western countries, since there was special sugar cane. Sugar cane has lost its significance as the only source of sugar in 1748, when German scientist Andreas Margraf found a way to extract sugar from sugar beet roots. This method has spread to Europe through the Napoleonic wars, during which France was initiated by continental blockade significantly narrowed the entry of cane sugar to the European continent. And in the 19 century, sugar has become a widely used low-cost product, as evidenced by the cookbooks of the time.
At the present time, sugar is a daily product, and there are a wide variety of types of sugar, most widespread of which is white crystal sugar. But sugar is accused of its bad influence on our health, especially that it is nothing but pure calories: no vitamins, no trace, no fiber. Sugar gives us only “quick” energy and its sweet taste. In difficult times, experiencing stress or depression, we often feel a desire to sweet – consciously or not, we are trying to sweeten our life. In addition, we may say that sugar is addictive, and its abandonment is often associated with discomfort: it causes nervousness, irritability, sweating, or sometimes a headache.
According to doctors, sugar suppresses the immune system and provokes the majority of allergic reactions to food, which in turn leads to chronic diseases. (Saulo 2005)
Many scientists argue that eliminating sugar from our diet, in 90% of cases we can prevent migraines, osteoporosis, cataracts, depression, and some others. So the main conclusion of physicians is the need to reduce amount of sugar we eat every day.
Sharpe, P. Sugar Cane: Past and Present. Illinois: Southern Illinois University, 1998.
Saulo Aurora A. “Sugars and Sweeteners in Foods”. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, 2005.