An interesting book from James Walvin on the history of sugar from its beginnings as a luxury item of the then super rich, to the creation of the slave trade and its mass marketing to Europe and North America, to the role it plays today in the human diet across the globe. The influence of sugar has been catastrophic for the people whose lives were destroyed first by slavery and then by indentured labour but also for the environment of the tropical areas taken over by sugar cane production that were utterly changed forever by sugar plantations. Its effect on human health has also been catastrophic first on the teeth of the super rich followed by the teeth of everyone as this noxious substance became a staple food. Walvin makes the point that even after all the years of free dental health for children in the UK, their oral health has not improved. The number of teeth that are extracted from children because they are rotten is going up not down. That surely must make people stop and think. The link between sugar and rotten teeth isn’t theoretical, it’s real, and a point that has been made over and over and over again…
He ends by considering the role that sugar is playing in the global obesity/T2 diabetes crisis that is currently engulfing the world and whether human beings’ craving for sweetness can ever be constrained. He talks about the sugar taxes that have been tried around the world and their varying level of effectiveness. We are about to begin our own experiment in the UK with the so called “soft drinks levy” on sugary drinks. He marvels that Coca-cola is now proudly advertising itself for what it DOESN’T contain – sugar – than what it DOES contain (not much that you would want to put inside you in my view). However this morning I think I encountered true madness in a free handout at my train station this morning… sugar free Lucozade. My 150ml freebie can says it contains a feeble 6 kilocalories.
Wikipedia tells me that:
Lucozade is a soft drink marketed as a range of sports and energy drinks. Created in 1927 as “Glucozade” by a Newcastle pharmacist, William Owen, as an energy source for the sick, it was renamed Lucozade in 1929 and acquired by Beecham’s in 1938.
Hospital visitors in the UK would regularly arrive with a bottle of Lucozade. The product is a glucose–water solution; as of 2016 a 500 ml bottle contained 62 grams (15.5 cubes) of sugar, more than Coca-Cola. Beecham, known since 2000 as GlaxoSmithKline, rebranded it as a sports drink in 1983 to associate it with health rather than sickness, switched to a plastic bottle, and introduced a range of flavours.
So there you have it, the UK sugar tax’s first triumph, the creation of an almost completely energy free, energy drink!! I won’t be drinking my free sample.
And right on time, along comes a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggesting that sugar acts in some ways like a drug of addiction:
“Consuming sugar produces effects similar to that of cocaine, altering mood, possibly through its ability to induce reward and pleasure, leading to the seeking out of sugar.”
And just for completeness, it may cause depression too but strangely only in men…
So there you have it. Corruption, illness, madness, addiction and (if you are a man) depression. One lump or two?