Sugarcane, a plant that makes sugar, has been around since 8,000 B.C., but humankind did not learn to make crystallized sugar until 500 B.C.
When Alexander the Great had conquered much of Asia in 325 B.C., he learned of sugar and said it was “honey without bees.” He introduced the sweetener to the Mediterranean. From India, sugar was brought to China, then to the Americas when Columbus planted sugarcane in the Caribbean. By the 16th century, sugar was a luxury throughout the civilized world.
Sugarbeets were discovered to be another source for sugar in 1744 Germany and sugar truly became a worldwide commodity when a New Orleans farmer named Etienne de Boré created a crystallizing process in 1795 that made the sweetener available on a large-scale commercial basis.
Even though these historical facts on the evolution of the sugar industry is clear, certain myths about sugar consumption also evolved and persist today.
Dr. Courtney Gaine became the president and chief executive officer of the Sugar Association in 2016 because she wanted to create a reliable source of scientific information about sugar. A nutritionist who happened to be a star basketball player for the UConn women’s basketball team, she earned her nutritional sciences and biochemistry Ph.D. in 2005. She knows the role of sugar as a food ingredient is often misunderstood by the public. As obesity levels in the United States reach epidemic proportions, it’s a critical time for the sugar industry.
“Misunderstandings about sugar are commonplace; there is both a great need and an excellent opportunity to educate consumers on the decades of scientific research regarding sugar,” Dr. Gaine said. “Sugar plays a critical role in our food supply and has for thousands of years. This is a fact in need of reinforcing.”
Dr. Gaine says public health messages on sugar consumption often tends to mislead and confuse the population. An example of this is the persistent belief that the elimination of sugar from a diet can lead to weight loss. She cited a 2016 study from the University of Glasgow showing that tack doesn’t work.
The Glasgow study has been following a group of more than 100,000 subjects in the United Kingdom in an ongoing health study. The report revealed that obesity is more strongly associated with total food consumption intake than any individual ingredient. The study found that fat is the biggest contributor to caloric intake and the macronutrient with the strongest link to obesity.
The fact remains that we are eating more and exercising less. The American Sugar Cane League and the Sugar Association have always held to the position that sugar, in moderation, is a healthy part of a diet. Carbohydrates, including sugar, are the preferred sources of the body’s fuel for brain power, muscle energy and every natural process that goes on in every functioning cell. Common sense says that a combination of reduced calorie intake and increased calorie burning will be more successful in maintaining a healthy body.
Here are some facts: more than half of U.S. households use only sugar as their household sweetener. One teaspoon of sugar is only 15 calories and is no more fattening that any other 15 calories. Sugar is nature’s sweetener. It’s 100 percent natural. So enjoy sugar and accept no substitutes.