There’s no better feeling than having a sugary substance landing on your taste buds – and of course, it goes with saying that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
Sugar is sweet and features in virtually every food we consume. People all over the world use it, though the uses are not all the same. Sugar is so commonplace that most people think they totally understand it. For that reason, you’re probably going to find these 55 facts about sugar rather surprising:
Historical sugar facts
- Sugar wasn’t as plentiful when it first arrived on the market, and neither was it cheap. At the time, it was more common for people to use honey as a natural sweetener.
- Once sugarcane was discovered, people started to eat the plant raw to enjoy its sweetness, rather than extracting the sugar.
- Sugarcane, for its part, came from India and Southeast Asia. The plant is referenced in an 8th Century BCE manuscript from China. The document states that people first started using sugarcane in India.
- Sanskrit, written between 400–350 BCE (The Mahabhashya of Patanjali), suggests that the people of New Guinea were the first to domesticate sugarcane. That was in 8000 BCE. Sugarcane reached the Philippines and India later on.
- No one can pinpoint the exact moment when crystallised sugar was first discovered. Historians know that it happened during the 5th Century CE in the era of the imperial Guptas.
- The Indians did not care for sugar. At least, not initially. All that changed when they found a way to turn sugarcane juice into crystals. This made it much easier to store and transport.
- At the time, it was called ‘Khanda’ in the local language, a word associated with candy.
- The proliferation of sugar has been imputed to Indian sailors who introduced it to the people they met along their trade routes. China, for its part, learnt to make crystallised sugar from travelling Buddhist monks.
- Sugarcane plantations in China appeared in the 7th Century. Emperor Taizong of Tang took an interest in sugarcane. This encouraged Indian envoys in China to reveal the secrets of cultivating sugarcane.
- Sugar came to England in the 12th Century. At the time, only the wealthy could afford it. The same goes for cinnamon, ginger, and saffron.
- Today, sugar is just a sweetener. But for the longest time, it was used for medical purposes. People from 9th Century Iraq would make syrups using sugar, fruits, spices, and various powders.
- For a period, English doctors actually thought that sugar could cure a wide variety of diseases. A doctor from the 18th Century was convinced that blowing sugar into the eyes could cure eye-related ailments.
- It was once quite normal in Europe for people to make sculptures out of sugar. These so-called subtleties were often found at feasts in the 13th Century. But no one was particularly enticed to eat them because they tasted horrible. To make the sculptures, a lot of nuts and pastes were used. The resulting art pieces were reminiscent of clay in their consistency.
- Not only was sugar a luxury for the wealthy but it was also quite rare. Henry III found this out in the 13th Century when he tried to acquire three pounds of sugar. He did not expect his request to bear much fruit because he doubted that such a volume was even present in the country.
- Sugar became an ordinary commodity accessible even to the working class in the 19th Century. By this point, the prices had dropped considerably. It was also around this time that people started using the substance in porridge, pastries, pudding, and various other food items. The tradition of adding sugar to tea was born in this era.
- Andreas Marggraf, a German chemist is credited for discovering beet sugar in 1747. Andreas’ research determined that the sugar from a sugar beet did not differ from the sugar extracted from sugarcane. Several years later (1802), a beet-sugar refinery was built, the first of its kind.
- Today, Americans produce an estimated 8.4 metric tons of beet sugar every year.
- Sugar is everywhere. Sugars are the building blocks of carbohydrates; carbohydrates are the building blocks of cells. As such, you could argue that humans and animals need sugar to survive.
- It is present in the fibres of all plants, created as a byproduct of photosynthesis.
- You can find it naturally in vegetables and grains, not to mention fruits and dairy products.
- Sugar consists of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules.
- The most popular type of sugar is crystallised sucrose. This is what people call table sugar. Sucrose consists of a fructose and glucose molecule.
- Table sugar, the kind you add to tea, is not the sweetest compound on earth. In fact, it is 200,000 times less sweet than lugduname, which is the sweetest compound.
- There are three categories of sugar namely: monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polyols. People that make sugar-free sweeteners use polyols. This is not ‘true’ sugar. Fruits, table sugar, milk, and numerous other sweetened products use disaccharides, which are sugars that constitute two linked monosaccharides. Monosaccharides are single molecule sugars.
- The sugar found in fruits and honey is called fructose. It is twice as sweet as table sugar but only if you eat the crystalline version. It should be noted that fruits also have sucrose and glucose.
- The most abundant type of sugar in nature is glucose. But you rarely see people eating it in its purified form.
- People get most of their sugar from sugarcane and sugar beets because they have the highest concentration of the substance.
- There are 37 species of sugarcane. It is the largest crop in the world.
Sugar: The health facts
- Sugar causes diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease. If you have an apple body shape (your waist measurement is larger than the measurements of your hips), you have a higher chance of developing liver and heart-related conditions stemming from the consumption of sugar.
- Excess sugar consumption can debilitate the healing process in breast cancer and colon cancer patients.
- Excess sugar consumption is bad for your skin. It causes the sugar in your blood to bind to proteins. This, in turn, creates molecules that have been known to make collagen brittle, producing wrinkles.
- On the flip side, doctors encourage patients to reduce their sugar intake as a means of allowing their skin to maintain its flexibility.
- Studies done on rats suggest that excessive sugar consumption can make you less intelligent. Scientists believe this to be true for humans because the brain structure of a rat resembles that of humans.
- Sugar addiction is a real thing. People that try to abandon sugar suddenly tend to develop symptoms that are normally associated with the flu such as nausea and headaches.
- Some studies have suggested that sugar addiction might be genetic.
- Many people claim that they want to get off sugar but this is easier said than done. This is because 74% of all the packaged food items you see in the supermarket have sugar. That includes things like pasta sauce that are not necessarily sweet.
- Sugar can make you fat but not because of any special attributes it might have. People get fat whenever they consume too many calories. Sugar is a source of calories.
- While ordinary sugar is likely to make you fat if it is taken in massive quantities, soft drinks are worse. This is because they feature artificial sweeteners which introduce more calories to your body than ordinary sugar added to a beverage such as tea.
- You can use sugar alcohol (xylitol) to prevent ear infections in children.
- According to a study in ‘Journal of Hepatology and Nature’, fructose is no better than alcohol as far as its impact on the liver is concerned. This specifically refers to fructose that has been manipulated, not the kind you find in fruits. Artificial processes remove the nutrients that normally make fructose much easier to process for your body. As a result, it taxes the liver.
- People normally attack coke for being too sugary. But it should be noted that there are 8g of sugar per 100ml of coke. Pure fruit juice, on the other hand, has 12g of sugar per 100ml.
- Women are more likely to consume thrice the recommended quantity of sugar on a daily basis (6 teaspoons).
- There are more vitamins and minerals in brown sugar than in white table sugars.
- When people think about food preservation, their minds immediately jump to salt, spice and vinegar. But sugar is also an effective preservative, especially in high quantities. It causes bacteria to lose water via osmosis. Bacteria need water to grow.
- Jams and Jellies use sugar as a preservative for this very reason.
- You can prolong the life of freshly cut flowers by adding some sugar to their vase.
- Scientists are working to create car fuel from sugar. People already use the substance to make model rocket fuel. Scientists are looking to take things a step further.
Bonus sugar facts!
- Christopher Columbus brought sugarcane to the New World.
- The word ‘sugar’ comes from ‘Sharkara’, a Sanskrit word. The Arabs call sugar ‘Sakkar’ while the Turks call it ‘Sheker’.
- Dogs love sweet things. But the same cannot be said for felines like cats that lack sweetness receptors.
- Each American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar each day. That amounts to a staggering 76 pounds of sugar annually!
- The average 20-ounce (600ml) cola bottle has roughly 16 cubes of sugar.
- No one intended to discover the artificial sweeteners, Saccharin and Aspartame. Scientists doing research that was completely unrelated to sweetening tried some compounds in a lab and they liked the taste.
- The discovery of sucralose was even more accidental. The lab in question was working on an insecticide. A scientist was asked to test a compound but he heard ‘taste’.
- Sugar was so scarce during WWII that you couldn’t buy more than 120g of sugar per week. The goal was to ration supplies.
Do you have any interesting of fun facts about sugar that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments section below!
What are the dangers of sugar?
The biggest dangers associated with excessive consumption of sugar is weight gain, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Is sugar a poison?
Sugar is actually one of the most toxic ingredients you can add to any food. Too much sugar encourages many diseases including type 2 diabetes.
is sugar addictive?
Oh yes, sugar can be as addictive as any other drug as its sweet taste is highly enjoyable!
is sugar bad for your skin?
Consuming a lot of sugar can lead to inflammation in the body, which in turn affects the skin. Excessive sugar consumption can also cause skin blemishes such as acne and also eczema.