Sugar, a staple in our diets, has a far more complex story than its sweet taste suggests. It influences our health, the environment, and even science in ways that are often overlooked.
Here are ten fascinating facts that reveal the multifaceted nature of sugar.
1. Impact on Cognitive Health: Excessive sugar consumption in early life can alter the gut microbiome, leading to cognitive impairments. Studies in adolescent rats showed that sugar-sweetened beverages caused memory issues and anxiety-like behavior in adulthood, linked to these microbiome changes.
2. Sugar and Fat Production: Added sugars like fructose and sucrose can double the body’s fat production in the liver, even in moderate amounts. This heightened fat production is a contributor to diseases like diabetes and fatty liver.
3. Sugar in Space: NASA’s research on meteorites, including a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed the presence of sugars such as arabinose, xylose, and significantly, ribose, in these space rocks.
4. Sugar Beets vs. Sugar Cane: In the USA, 55% of sugar is derived from sugar beets, not cane. Sugar beet processing plants, known for their strong odor, are a common sight in regions like Twin Falls, Idaho, where the beets themselves can taste like candied potatoes.
5. Tic Tac Loophole: Despite being almost entirely sugar, Tic Tacs are light enough to be legally labeled as zero sugar per serving due to their small weight.
6. Cereal Branding History: Kellogg’s Corn Pops cereal, originally named Sugar Pops until 1984, featured a mascot named Sugar Pops Pete, who was depicted blasting sugar onto the cereal with a pistol.
7. Recommended Sugar Limits: The average man should consume no more than 36g of added sugar daily, and the average woman no more than 25g. To contextualize, a single can of soda typically contains about 40g of sugar.
8. Sugar Industry’s Sway in Research: In the 1960s, the sugar industry funded studies that inaccurately shifted the blame for heart disease from sugar to saturated fat.
9. Caramelization in Onions: Onions contain natural sugar sucrose. When cooked, sucrose breaks down into glucose and fructose, resulting in a sweeter flavor through caramelization.
10. Sugar as a Controlled Substance: Some medical professionals advocate for sugar to be classified as a controlled substance and for its removal from the FDA’s “generally regarded as safe” category, citing its health impacts.