Finishing a half marathon yesterday in Silicon Valley the only water available was sugared water (misleadingly labelled "Vitamin Water"). No normal water was available for the runners. That’s a disturbing new development. You would have expected that runners would tend to have healthier habits than the population as a whole, so why would we want to drink sugar?
It is almost impossible to buy anything here in the US that is not filled with sugar. The manufacturers lace sugar into foods that you might not expect to contain sugar – such as a tin of tomatoes or beans, breakfast cereal, bread, orange juice, soy milk, salad dressing, pasta sauces, pickles and crackers.
And the quantities are large. Kellogs Crunchy Nut cornflakes are about one-third sugar by weight (about the same as a Pop Tart).
Why do manufacturers do this? Because sugar tastes nice and is addictive. You will enjoy the food and come back to buy more.
If food manufacturers were adding heroin to our food, we wouldn’t allow it. The food industry is cynically and deliberately poisoning us. It is time we forced it to stop.
Avoiding added sugars when buying staple foods requires extreme vigilance. Foods here are often misleadingly labelled, with the sugar disguised as maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose, glucose, corn syrup, maltitol, dehydrated sugar cane, fruit sugars or other equivalents. And by splitting the added sugar into these different components, the manufacturers can push sugars further down the ingredients list than if the sugars were all bundled together.
The good news is that sugar consumption here in the US is beginning to dip down, after a peak in 1998. From the mid-70s to the mid-80s, high fructose corn syrup exploded onto the scene, taking about a third of the cane and beet sugar market, adding to overall sugar consumption, and contributing to the obesity epidemic. But while the total appears to have peaked, as the graph below shows, Americans still consume more than 5 ounces (150g) of sugar per day: the equivalent of about 4 cans of coke. Apart from soda, most of this is sugar added to ordinary food items by the food processing and catering industries.
Here is an article I wrote a while ago explaining the biochemistry of sugar consumption. Added sugar will be the new tobacco: it is highly dangerous, addictive and poisonous, and is central to chronic health problems afflicting affluent societies today.