Up until recently humans faced the very real possibility of starvation. We did not have the ability to preserve or transport food to any great extent so the concept of “our daily bread” was very real. Energy sources were often scarce so being able to determine the most potent food sources was an advantage. An interesting fact about the design of the digestive process, which allows us to determine the presence of sugar in food, is the only chemical digestion that takes place in the mouth is the breakdown of starch into sugar. This allows us to determine the presence of sugar in a food where it would normally be hidden. A lady I spoke with who grew up at the beginning of last century said their dessert was often a dough ball. They would hold it in their mouth and the starch would digest, releasing sugar, for a treat. Although this doesn’t sound like much it allowed our ancestors to chew something to determine the energy content.
In a society where food is scarce the ability to determine sweet as well as a preference for high energy foods was a real advantage. It has led to our modern cravings for sweet, fat, and salt. In fact in rats the sweet taste is more addictive than cocaine. (1) In the past it was usually not a problem to crave sweets. You could only eat so many apples till you were full. Once in a while you would find some honey and over eat. For example consider the words from Proverbs. Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, that you not have it in excess and vomit it. (Proverbs 25:16 NIV) In our modern society sugar is everywhere and eating to much is easy, (and usually quite pleasurable). It would be great if we could avoid all added sugar and only eat what occurred in food naturally but that is a bit unrealistic. Tomorrow in Sugar Part II, I will discuss some of the health effects of eating added sugar as well as discuss some of the hidden added sugars. In Sugar III, I will discuss reasonable guidelines for sugar intake, alternatives, and some drawbacks to artificial sweeteners.
- Ahmed, Serge H., Karine Guillem, and Youna Vandaele. “Sugar Addiction.”Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care16.4 (2013): 434-39. Web.