Problems with a Future

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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People have been eating sucrose in its seemingly infinite incarnations for nearly two millennia. Touted and damned for centuries, all that seems certain is that the human craving for it is unimpaired. Even a glance at its world tonnage over the last couple of centuries suggests as much. Yet, over the course of the last half-century or so, sugar’s position as the world’s greatest sweetener has been challenged, and some of those challenges may raise questions about its future success as a food for human beings. Foremost among these challenges is sugar’s increasingly unfavorable press, inspired mostly by the role imputed to it in the higher rates of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and other ailments in the United States and elsewhere. The industry has fought back fiercely, and it has held its ground with some success, at least in the United States. But the campaigns against processed foods and for healthier diets, organic foods, and sustainable agriculture, though still only blips on the sugar industry’s screens, have refused to go away. While establishing a scientifically solid case against sucrose alone has turned out to be more difficult than it might seem, a large number of reputable food scholars, physicians, and nutritionists are convinced that sucrose is at the very least one of a number of guilty parties, especially in relation to young consumers.