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Sugar is a name synonymous to the flavor sweet. The flavor the entire world seems to love and want more. A vital source of energy, sugar undoubtedly is a part of our staple diet.

At the beginning of the last century world sugar production amounted to no more than 11 million tons raw value. By the year 1949/1950 this figure increased to 36.5 million and in the year 1985/1986, it further surmounted to 100.5 million and by the end of the century it was around 129 million tons. The statistic is enough to prove that the entire world has a sweet tooth.

The European Union, Brazil and India are the top three producers and together account for some 40% of the annual global production. However most sugar is consumed within the country of production and only approximately 25% is traded internationally.


[edit] What is Sugar?

Sugar is lot more than just the taste sweet, it’s food, it’s a source of energy not only to humans but plants and animals as well.

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate consisting entirely or essentially of sucrose that is naturally present in fruits and vegetables and is the most abundantly present sugar in nature. All plants produce sucrose through the natural process of photosynthesis.[1] Table sugar that we know popularly today is the crystal or powder obtained mainly after refining sugar cane or sugar beet juice.

[edit] History of Sugar

Sugar once a luxury available only to the rich started its journey from the island of South Pacific where sugar cane was first discovered about 20,000 BC. But it wasn’t until 500 BC when the Indians discovered the technique of making crude sugar called “Gur” from sugar cane juice. The secret of making sugar was closely guarded for centuries as sugar continued to fetch riches to the traders. It was not until the 7th century when the Arabs invaded Persia and found the secret of making sugar.

The Europeans discovered this wonderful sweet spice only in the 11th century AD. Columbus is responsible for spreading sugar cane to the Caribbean island where it flourished and spread. Sugar was so popular and in demand in Europe that many wars were fought and many more enslaved for it. Soon sugar became an important part of the European economy.

Today after many wars and advancement in technology sugar is available to the common man.

[edit] Types of Sugar

Sugar can be broadly classified into two types’ refined sugar and sugar present naturally in nature. Refined sugar is derived from the sugar available in plants naturally.

Refined sugar is the common sugar or the commercial sugar as we know it today. It is widely available in the form of white granules in the market. Through centuries “The reed which gives honey” (sugar cane) has been the raw material for producing crystalline sugar until in the mid 1970’s the Europeans discovered sugar beet as an alternative. There is however no difference between the sugars extracted from cane or beet. Other types of sugar are also available in the market like palm sugar, maple sugar, corn syrup etc. However cane and beet reign supreme in the production of refined commercial sugar.

Sparkling crystals, feather-light powders, moist brown sugars or thick syrups: sugars come in many types with distinctive flavors and uses. The color white stands for purity this is especially true in case of sugar, purer the sugar the whiter it is.

Out of the hundreds of carbohydrates present in nature five are the main as far as sweetness is concerned. Sucrose or saccharose, glucose, fructose, maltose & lactose. Fructose is the sugar present in fruits and the sweetest of all followed by sucrose, glucose and maltose. Lactose is the least sweet and is the only sugar of note found in animals which is present in the milk. Theses sugars exist in nature either alone or as a mixture.

[edit] Chemistry of Sugar

Chemically sugar is nothing but soluble carbohydrates which is sweet in taste. Neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen constitute the carbohydrates and sugar is one type of it. The refined sugar or the table sugar is basically composed of sucrose.

The molecular formula for sucrose is C12 H22 O11 and like other carbohydrates sucrose has hydrogen to oxygen ratio of 2:1. Sugars are the basic building blocks of carbohydrates, which are often classified according to the number of sugar units they contain. Monosaccharides, for example, contain a single sugar unit, whereas disaccharides contain two. Glucose, fructose, and galactose are all examples of monosaccharides. When two monosaccharides are joined together chemically, a disaccharide is created. Sucrose is a disaccharide, made up of the two sugar units, glucose and fructose.[2]

Sugar has many amazing properties other than being sweet, odorless, white crystals. When completely dissolved in water sugar decreases the freezing point and increases the boiling point of water and making it suitable for ice cream and candy manufacturers. These interesting properties make sugar useful in many industries across many verticals.

[edit] Use of Sugar

Though the primary use of sugar continues to be in the food and flavor industry, its uses in other non conventional spheres can not be ignored.

• It is used as natural preservative

• It is used for fermentation of alcohol

• It is used as an ingredient in the printers ink

• It is useful in slow setting of cements and glues

• It is used in the pharmaceutical industry

[edit] Health Impact

As we all know sugar is basically a carbohydrate and carbohydrates are an important source of food energy. There are two type of sugar in the food that we eat. Naturally occurring sugar in the fruits, vegetables and dairy products and then there are added sugar in processed foods. Sugar as such doesn’t contain any vitamins or minerals. It is a simple carbohydrate and doesn’t contain any complex carbohydrates like starch or fiber.

The consumption of sugar as such is not a problem but over consumption of sugar is. The carbohydrates consumed by us are immediately broken down to energy. They are stored as fat only when consumed more than the requirement of the human body and anything in excess can never be good. In today’s world of instant foods use of sugar is rampant in most of the product to enhance flavor hence leading to consumption of sugar in excess. Sugar once a luxury item has become the cheapest source of energy today. It is important for us to understand how much of sugar can we actually have?

[edit] How much sugar can I have?

Most people have no idea how much sugar they should consume in a day. In a world that seems to be immersed in sugar, it is apt to know how much is too much. According to a 2004 report from the American Dietetic Association, sweeteners account for about 15 percent of our daily calories. But that's just an average. Many people get 30 percent or more of their calories from added sugars -- far more than the average human body really needs.

According to the World Health Organization, added sugars should account for not more than 10 percent of calories. This advice is in line with the recommendations of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid, which called for a maximum of 12 teaspoons of sugar (48 grams) in a 2,200-calorie diet -- or roughly 9 percent of daily calories.

[edit] Good Sugar vs. Bad Sugar

The good news is you don't have to swear off sugar completely. The key is understanding what's good and what's not so good.

Simple sugars are what sweeten food like candy bars and yogurt. They increase the blood sugar very quickly, and stick to the arteries. Simple sugars also stimulate a fat-storing enzyme. If a person is not active, any excess sugar will get converted to fat.

Complex sugars (or complex carbohydrates) are found naturally in fruit, vegetables and grains. These sugars gradually enter the bloodstream to provide energy throughout the day. Foods like brown rice and whole wheat bread are good sources of complex sugars.

[edit] Understanding your sugar intake better

The table sugar or candy and other sweetned products are not the only source of sugar. There are many hidden sources of sugar. In fact, anything which contains carbohydrate is a source of sugar. But all forms of such sugars are not "bad"for your health.

The label on a can of Pepsi reads 41 grams of carbs and 41 grams of sugar. This means that every single carbohydrate comes from sugar. The label on a package of plain oatmeal will read 18 grams of carbs and only one gram of sugar. Almost all of the carbs in oatmeal are made up of long chains of sugar molecules called "complex" carbs. Oatmeal, along with sweet potatoes, wheat breads, rice and corn, is a complex carb, also known as a starch.

These simple carbohydrates are either "unrefined" or "processed." Complex carbs are found in whole foods that contain sugar, such as fruits, vegetables, juices, grains and legumes, and that still hold their natural water, fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. Processed foods include white bread, soda, candy, crackers, cookies and just about any commercial product labeled "fat-free." These have been stripped of their wholesome attributes and are dense with nothing but empty calories. For instance, one gram of a cracker will contain four calories, but one gram of an orange contains about 0.2 calories, because the bulk of its weight is water and fiber.

[edit] Can sugar be good?

In moderation, unrefined sugars are an important and vital part of the diet. Sugar that is needed for activity--such as weight training or a cardio workout--can be used as fuel, and the rest will be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen for later use. Unfortunately, our storage space is limited, and anything left over turns to fat.

[edit] When to have sugar

Taken after a workout, sugar--combined with protein--expedites recovery while helping you pack on new muscle. In this way, sugar acts as a transport system, efficiently feeding your muscles when they need it most.

[edit] Sugar Risk

Consumption of too much of sugar can lead to some serious health implications.

Obesity tops the list on how too much sugar is risky. Low level of activity and high level of consumption of sugar and fat in everyday diet leads to obesity. Obesity in turn leads to numerous health hazards. But a healthy balanced diet and routine workout can overcome this risk.

Dental problem is another major risk of excess sugar intake especially amongst children. Sugar acts as a source of energy to bacteria’s present in the teeth, the bacteria’s in turn produces acid that cause damage to the teeth leading to tooth decay. Practicing regular oral hygiene can solve this problem to a large extent.

Diabetes has been the cause of debate amongst sugar supporters and sugar opposers. While if sugar is the cause for diabetes might be unclear but a person suffering from this disease needs to practice caution as far as intake of sugar is concerned.

Eat healthy, stay healthy and feel healthy is the mantra that more and more people around the world are adopting.

[edit] Interesting Facts

  • Sugar was one of the first pharmaceutical ingredients used, as it still is today, to mask the bitter taste of medicines?
  • In the 16th century a teaspoon of sugar in London cost equivalent to five dollars.
  • Sugar is the only taste humans are born craving.
  • a can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar and a can of Pepsi has 41 grams of sugar. That is about seven teaspoons or 13 lumps of sugar per can
  • Adding a spoon full of sugar to the flower vase increases the life of the cut flowers.
  • Lemons contain more sugar than Strawberries.
  • Sugar is used by chemical manufacturers to grow penicillin.
  • A can of cola contains 10 teaspoon of sugar equivalent to 150 calories.
  • An average American consumes 64 lbs of sugar every year.
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar or 4 gm of sugar is equivalent to 16 calories.

[edit] Useful Web-links