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From a biological point of view, our sugar is usually crystallized sucrose. This raw material is found in various plants, and that's why we extract sugar from sugar cane, maple, sugar palms and sugar beet. The most important facts:
- Sugar is indispensable in the body for motor skills, mental activity and cell function. Without him we die.
- Our sugar greed has evolutionary causes. Sweetness suggests energy to the body. That is why we have to work consciously if we want to reduce sugar consumption.
- In moderation, sugar consumption is vital, in amounts well over 12 teaspoons a day it sneaks into the body as a sweet poison, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, cell aging, obesity and diabetes.
- Foods known to be healthy with many vitamins and minerals such as fruit also contain a lot of sugar.
The most obvious consequence of excessive sugar consumption is being overweight. In 2009, the Robert Koch Institute published a German long-term study according to which 15 percent of all children and adolescents suffer from overweight - that is around 50 percent more than in the 1990s. The main cause is the ever increasing sugar consumption, especially through soft and energy drinks.
If you eat too much sugar products, the body first creates sugar stores in the cells. If these are full, the body sugar becomes fat and clings to the hips, the abdomen or the buttocks and internally, for example in the liver. Secondary diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes are now at risk.
Where does sugar craving come from?
When we consume sugar products, the body produces insulin. Insulin makes us hunger and burn less fat. We are getting fatter, and the fatter we get, the greater our urge for sugar - the dangerous circle of excess weight. Diseases such as fatty liver, dental diseases, bowel problems, sleep disorders, heart problems, poor concentration and depression arise from the vicious cycle.
Type 2 diabetes
Too much sugar increases the level of blood sugar. The pancreas now releases more insulin, which brings the sugar parts into the cells. Insulin usually balances blood sugar levels. If the sugar intake is too high in the long term, as with almost all people in Germany, and this is accompanied by too little exercise, an otherwise unbalanced diet and stress (this also applies to many Germans), then the blood sugar system will no longer work at some point .
The cells become resistant to insulin and the sugar transport no longer gets into the overloaded cells, but builds up in the blood. The blood sugar level rises steadily, and the blood vessels suffer as well as the nerves. We call this disease type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Why does sugar make you fat?
The body converts refined sugar into fat five times faster than complex carbohydrates. The sugar feeds the fat cells.
The constant energy kick caused by excessive sugar consumption leads to concentration problems. The sufferers become nervous, cannot sit still, and are plagued by internal unrest.
Excessive amounts of sugar cause damage to the intestine. They show up in flatulence, diarrhea and constipation. The high sugar level attacks the intestinal flora and ensures that harmful bacteria can colonize there. Not only do we love the sweet stuff, but also the Candida yeast. In the end, severe bowel diseases may develop.
If we drink energy drinks all the time and order our lunch almost only from the pizza delivery service, then even sugar addiction can occur. If we stop using the addictive substance, the body produces more dopamine. We suffer from headaches, are aggressive and have an insatiable craving for chocolate and gummy bears.
Too high a blood sugar level leads to emotional instability. Nervousness and unexplained fears can turn into real depression.
A high level of blood sugar has a negative effect on the hippocampus. This is the brain's memory center. People with high sugar consumption performed worse in memory tests at the Charité in Berlin than people with moderate sugar consumption.
Like smoking and alcohol, the sweet drug is a risk factor in developing cancer. Sugar overdoses promote, firstly, that tumor cells multiply, but secondly, the tempting sweetness weakens the body's defense system and the body cells, and this favors cancer.
Sucrose, fructose or glycose, they all destroy vitamin C, the very substance that is necessary to fight harmful viruses and bacteria. This allows inflammation to spread more easily.
Excessive sugar intake leads to sugar molecules sticking to the collagen fibers in the tissue. This hardens now, which causes the body's own hygiene to fail: toxins remain in the skin, which shrinks and ages.
Sugar is important for bacteria to draw energy. Oral bacteria thrive with increased sugar consumption and leave acids as waste. These damage the teeth and lead to tooth decay. As with many other diseases, sugar is not the only cause. Caries also thrives when we eat hearty food before eating sugary food, it depends on how the food is made (sticky chunks of sugar stick to the teeth), how long the food stays on the teeth etc. Generally, however, the simple carbohydrates are more likely to lead Caries as multiple carbohydrates, because they are available to the bacteria faster. Incidentally, it helps if you brush your teeth after consuming sugary foods.
No matter the type of sugar: table sugar, honey or easily digestible starch promote caries equally.
From lack to abundance
A few centuries ago, ordinary people in Central Europe had hardly any sugar. Sugar from sugar cane was a luxury product, and those who couldn't afford it resorted to honey. At 35 kilograms a year, we consume about five times as much of the sweet stuff as we did in the days of the German Empire. The World Health Organization states that Germans consume 90 grams of sugar a day, almost double what would be acceptable: 50 grams for adults, 25 grams for children, i.e. 12 or 6 tablespoons.
What is sugar?
All types of sugar are carbohydrates. Table sugar usually consists of multiple sugars (sucrose). In food we also find glucose, fruit sugar (fructose) and milk sugar (lactose). If you find glucose, fructose or lactose on a food, it is always sugar. And for them: more than 12 teaspoons a day harm your health.
Why do we love sugar?
Our body needs the sweetener. These are simple carbohydrates that are immediately available - necessary for people who consume a lot of energy through physical activity. Without these carbohydrates, we couldn't breathe, think, run, or climb. For this reason we are evolutionarily fixated on sweets. Fruit and honey gave our ancestors, the hunters and gatherers, immediate energy that they urgently needed, like a car's gasoline in the tank.
Our digestion breaks down into fruit and glucose. The blood then transports these building blocks into the muscles and organs. The brain alone needs 140 grams of glucose a day. Attention: People get this 140 grams not only from pure sugar, but especially from foods that contain carbohydrates such as cereals, bread, oatmeal, pasta or potatoes.
The industry takes advantage of our body's greed for the sweet energy kick and processes amounts of sugar in all kinds of foods that, when freshly prepared, did not even contain them. In addition, an added sugar has a preserving effect.
Everyone knows that ice cream, cakes, gummy bears or desserts contain large portions of sugar, and that lavish consumption of these treats makes you fat and harms your health. The majority of our excessively high sugar level is not achieved through such well-known sweets, but through industrial foods that most people hardly associate with added sugar. Such sugar bombs include: ketchup, meat salad. Crispbreads for children, crispbread, chips, strawberry yoghurts, cocoa powder, ready-made pizza, ham, red cabbage, coleslaw, salad dressings, crispy mueslis, liver sausage, soft drinks, fruit nectar and even as healthy advertised milk products for children.
Even people who try to eat healthy are not immune to the sugar bombs. A healthy diet includes lots of vegetables, less saturated fats and reduced sugar: canned vegetables and frozen vegetables (with seasoning) often contain plenty of added sugar. 80 percent of all groceries in the supermarket contain artificial sugar additives. Drinks such as lemonade, cola or natural fruit juices contain up to 120 grams of sugar per liter.
In addition to this hidden sugar in food, which we do not directly associate with it, every person in Germany eats on average seven kilograms of sweetened baked goods such as cookies or gingerbread, over three kilograms of ice cream, five and a half kilograms of candy and sweets such as fruit gums and ten kilograms of chocolate per year.
Sugar comes mainly from the tropical sugar cane and the sugar beet of the temperate latitudes. The main growing countries for sugar cane are Brazil, India and China, for sugar beet France, Russia and the USA.
The history of white gold
The wild sugar cane grows in New Guinea. Finds in Polynesia already prove it 8000 years before our era, 2000 years later people spread it in India and Persia. Chinese, Indonesians and Filipinos cultivated it 1000 years before our era, today it is an important crop in all countries of the tropics and subtropics.
This crop came from India to Persia and Arabia. Nearchus, a general of Alexander the Great, told of a plant from which a substance as sweet as honey could be obtained. The Europeans learned about cane sugar. Pliny the Elder mentions cane sugar from Egypt and India as medicine.
600 years after our era, it is known how the Persians made sugar: they treated the juice of the sugar cane with lime and protein, heated it and then filled it in clay cone shapes. Sugar crystallized at the top. This is how the Sugar Loaf was created. The rich imported this sugar from the Persian Empire to Rome; however, the Romans usually used thickened grape juice for sweetening.
The Arabs grew sugar cane on the coast of North Africa and Spain, the Venetians introduced it in Sicily, Cyprus, Malta, Rhodes and Morocco. Cane sugar came to core Europe around 1100 according to our era with the crusades and was sold in pharmacies. The sweet goods were considered medicinal and were a luxury product. The cane sugar came to Europe on a larger scale with colonialism.
The "white gold"
Christopher Columbus brought sugar cane cuttings to the island of Hispaniola on his second trip to the Caribbean, and in 1494 the Spaniards planted it in Haiti. The Caribbean has now become the main sugar cane growing area in the world. Portuguese and later English also entered the business, and the Caribbean islands were soon called "sugar islands".
The Portuguese grew sugar cane in West Africa and Brazil, worked with Dutch banks and created the largest sugar production in the world. In 1625 they had a monopoly on the European market.
The British occupied Barbados in 1627 and Jamaica in 1655 and only produced sugar cane here. They brought the molasses to England and processed it there. They replaced the Portuguese as monopolists in the sugar business. The British called cane sugar "white gold".
For the sugar production, the colonial powers used slaves from Africa, who caught slave hunters in the area of today's Ghana and Guinea and dragged them to work in the plantations of the Caribbean. Most of the people living there today are descendants of these slaves. Between 10 and 15 million Africans were kidnapped for plantation slavery. Today, the "sugar islands" of Trinidad, Tobago and Barbados have the highest per capita sugar consumption in the world.
The sugar beet
Sugar remained a luxury product. That changed after 1747. That year Andreas Sigismund Marggraf discovered that sugar can be produced from sugar beet. In contrast to sugar cane, the beet grows in moderately cool latitudes. This was a cheap alternative to tropical sugar cane for Europe. The world's first beet sugar factory was built in Cunem in Silesia in 1801. By 1900, 11 million tons of beet sugar had already been produced. Sugar was now part of the daily diet and no longer a product for the rich.
Sugar beets grow in soil. After harvesting, they are machine cleaned and dismembered. The sugar juice is extracted from these chips with hot water. Lime milk binds the non-sugar substances. The light yellow sugar juice is now evaporated, and a golden thick juice with 75 percent sucrose is created. The thick juice now gets so-called seed crystals, and the beet sugar crystallizes. Then centrifuges separate the syrup from the crystals.
All kinds of sugar
- Cane sugar is the brown sugar refined from the juice of the sugar cane. It is available in a variety of forms, which differ in taste and color, depending on the origin, cultivation method and processing.
- Beet sugar is said substance from the sugar beet.
- Maple sugar is made from the sugar maple, the juice of which contains about five percent sucrose.
- Palm sugar is obtained from the peduncles of various palm trees. These are scratched and the outflowing juice contains around 15 percent sucrose.
- Fructose is a simple sugar. Honey mainly consists of it, it is also contained in glucose-fructose syrup, which is made from corn.
- Melezitose is a triple sugar that aphids excrete in honeydew. This is how he gets into forest honey.
- Malt sugar is made artificially from starch and is mainly used to make alcoholic beverages.
- Molasses is the name of the brown syrup that falls off when alcohol is made. It is the basis of rum for sugar cane.
- Lactose is double milk sugar with glucose and galactose. Many people, especially Asians, are lactose intolerant. Lactose causes severe diarrhea in them.
- Stachyose is a fourfold sugar in soybeans.
- Dextrose, glucose or dextrose are simple sugars made from starch, which are also found in honey and blood.
In contrast to sugar sweetness, substitutes have no calories. They include aspartame, acesulfame K, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin, stevioglycosides and thaumatin. Rumors that these could damage health or even cause cancer could not be clearly proven. But there is another problem. Because of the sweet taste, the body produces plenty of insulin.
Honey contains vitamins, amino acids and minerals, but also almost as many calories as table sugar. Vitamins and minerals also contain maple syrup, fruit syrups and raw sugar from sugar cane.
Also used for sweetening are carob, the fruits of the tube cassia, the sugar root, the sweet umbel, the manna lichen (a type of lichen), birch sugar, latwerge, agave syrup, date syrup and manna ash.
Is glucose particularly healthy?
No, glucose is sugar. At the highest judicial EU decision, the dextro energy producer Dextro Energy was not allowed to advertise that its products are good for health.
Limit sugar, but how?
Our craving for sweets is an evolutionary urge to break through. It is best to gradually reduce your sugar intake. For example, we can drink a glass of water more often if we feel the urge for something sweet.
Very important: cook yourself with fresh food. You are already dealing with most sugar traps in industrial food. For example, industrial ketchup contains almost 50 percent sugar. You can also make ketchup yourself by mixing and seasoning tomato paste with soy sauce and / or water. Then this sugar bomb has disappeared. You can dilute juices with water to spritzers.
In the supermarket, check how much sugar, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose or lactose is in the product. Maltodextrin, corn syrup, glucose syrup, sweet whey powder or malt extract also means sugar. For example, get the AOK app "Shop consciously" and you will find out the real sugar content of food. What is considered healthy does not have to contain little sugar. Dried fruits, for example, are full of vital substances, but are also full of sugar. This also applies to fruit juices, even if they come 100% from nature. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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