Ah, Sugar Sugar

Posted on August 7, 2013



Life in the Boomer Lane’s definition of a perfect ménage-a-trois would be to have sex with Now Husband, while another man spoon feeds her coffee Haagen Dazs. The August issue of National Geographic is on board with this (the lust for sugar, not a threesome involving LBL). Their cover story is “Sugar Love (A not so sweet story)”

Like Romeo and Juliet, Americans are wallowing in a suicidal love affair.  With both sugar and its chemical imitators, we are consuming an average of 77 lbs of added sugar annually.  Sites quote total sugar consumption at 150-152 lbs annually. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a host of other ailments are rampant And that is in addition to all the people killed and seriously injured in the riots following the announcement that Hostess Twinkies would soon be off the market (they have since been resurrected).

Let’s skip over all the ways we are finding to ruin our lives with sugar, and get right to the heart of the matter: Why? In other words, why is a donut more appealing than a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast? Why is the Cheesecake Factory Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake (51.5 tsp sugar) preferable as a dessert to, let’s say, a small bowl of fruit?

According to National Geographic, sugar is an addictive drug. An injection of sugar into the bloodstream stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain that respond to heroin and cocaine. (The analogies are not lost on LBL, and she welcomes clever comments based on this fact).

We have always needed sugar, first as fruit-eating apes who consumed it (and the fructose it contained) in abundance for daily energy. Then, when the planet cooled and the abundance of fruit ended, apes learned to store fructose as fat. In other words, a little fructose went a longer way.

Because science is really boring, and LBL is tired of thinking about cold apes, let’s fat-forward about a million years. Some apes stayed apes. Others eventually evolved into humans. A small number eventually evolved into politicians. The need for fructose remained, although it was a very small need. Everything was hunky dory until Columbus arrived, bearing rats and sugar cane. The result of the latter was the creation of sugar cane plantations, which then spawned both slavery and the accessibility of sugar for the masses.

The consumption of sugar has risen ever since, exploding when someone decided to have a National Cupcake Day, and so had to invent the cupcake. Following that, was the invention of processed foods, fast foods, and non-foods. All rely heavily on either sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

The final nail in the coffin was the advent of the soft drink and the transformation of cereal, from an actual food product consisting of whole grains, to a colorized sugar extravaganza of “flakes, pops, and puffs.”

Most boomers have seen a dramatic difference in the type of food we were raised on and the food our grandchildren are eating. If it makes you feel any better, the news this morning was encouraging: The incidence of early childhood obesity has gone down in 18 states, largely because of the government’s ongoing attempt to have parents and caregivers understand that young children need healthy food and daily exercise. You’d think that would be a slam dunk, right? Well, in this fast food, computerized world, it’s not.

It might be interesting to turn the clock back and have Columbus leave his sugar cane at home. Then LBL would be writing about rats. For the record, that ménage wouldn’t work nearly as well with Now Husband and a rat.