b'SENSE, NONSENSE AND SCIENCEBY: JOE SCHWARCZFEWER SWEETS MAY MAKEFOR A SWEETER LIFEA ccording to a New Guinean legend,at the time warning us to stay away from the human race began when thejust about any food you could think of. first man made love to a stalkWe were being warned about fats, choles-of sugar cane. Although conjuring upterol, salt, additives, pesticide residues, a mental picture of such an activity isand now sugar. But as I glanced at the intriguing, our love affair today is withThe real stimulusqualification of Dr. Yudkin, I thought the the taste of sugar, not with the canesfor producingbook might be worth looking into. Yudkin physical attributes. It was indeed in Newwas raised in London after his family had Guinea that sugar cane was first domes- sugar from beetsescaped the Russian pogroms in 1905 and ticated some 10,000 years ago, eventuallywent on to get both a PhD and an MD spreading to Asia where it became highlyarose during thedegree. His interest was nutrition, even-prized as a medicine to treat everythingtually becoming professor of Nutrition from headaches to impotence. By theNapoleonic Wars. and Dietetics at the University of London. Middle Ages, Arab tradesmen devel- Clearly Yudkin was no scientific slouch. oped sugar refining into an industry thatIn the 1950s concern about the allowed the production of sweetenedincreasing rate of heart disease was foods. Marzipan, made by mixing groundaddressed by Dr. Ancel Keys famous almonds with sugar, became highlySeven Countries Study in which he drew prized and may well go down in historyby the mid-1920s. Sugar went from beingattention to a highly suggestive relation-as the worlds first sugar added food.a luxury item prescribed as a sedative forship between the intake of saturated Returning Crusaders introduced sugarinsomniacs to being a widely availablefat, mostly from animal products, and to European palates with demand sooncommodity. To this day, beets are a majorthe death rate from coronary disease. outstripping supply.source of sugar in Europe. Yudkin was sceptical of Keys analysis In Europe the high sugar content ofUntil recently, the magnitude ofand claimed that sugar intake corre-beets was first noticed in 1747 by Andreasthat sugar consumption lurked in thelated with heart disease at least as well Marggraf, a German apothecary who hadshadows as the spotlight focused on fatsas fat intake. He also made some inter-been using beets as a laxative. He wasand cholesterol as dietary devils. But asesting observations, noting, for exam-struck by their sweet taste. One of hisit became clear that low fat was notple, that the Masai in Kenya had a diet students Franz Karl Achard, decided tothe answer to obesity, diabetes or car- that very high in animal fat but had very grow several beet varieties to see whichdiovascular disease, attention shifted tolittle heart disease. Many factors may be produced the most sugar. By 1802, athe ingredient that replaced fat in manyinvolved, but the Masai eat virtually no pilot sugar beet refinery had been builtprocessed foods, namely sugar. Paediatricsugar. When Yudkin questioned patients, in Prussia. endocrinologist Robert Lustigs YouTubewho had a heart attack, about their prior The real stimulus for producing sugarpresentation on the evils of sugar took thediet, he discovered that they had been from beets arose during the Napoleonicworld by storm and virtually every mag- eating about 120 grams of sugar a day, Wars. The British had blockaded Frenchazine and newspaper ran stories on thetwice as much as his healthy controls. ports, cutting off sugar shipments fromsugar hidden in our food supply and theUnfortunately, Yudkins work was rele-the Caribbean, so Napoleon ordered histoxicity of sugar-sweetened beverages.gated to the back burner by Keys vilifica-minions to find a way to make sugarMy interest in sugar dates back to thetion of fats, enthusiastically supported by beet refineries efficient. One Jules Paulearly 1970s when I came across a book bythe sugar industry. That industry is now Benjamin Delessert succeeded in findingDr. John Yudkin with the provocative titlescrambling to deal with the assault on an effective way to extract sugar fromSweet and Dangerous, featuring a sugarsugar as Yudkins ideas are being vindi-beets, and he was rewarded with he Crossbowl anointed with the skull and cross- cated and governments are urging people of the Legion of Honour. Soon 40 beetbones on the cover. I must admit that Ito limit their added sugar intake. Forty refineries were supplying France withthought this was just another one of thegrams a day seems appropriate. Fewer sugar, and that number expanded to 250many alarmist books that were appearingsweets may make for a sweeter life. 12IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'