Sugar: Natural or artificial

Updated: Aug 25


Sugar brings joy and helps people to maintain their taste buds. It has helped to store many secrets of cultural delicacies. Nutrition and health experts always recommend choosing natural sugars over artificial sweeteners. Natural sugar has been a core of our tradition and cuisine. It is naturally extracted from sugarcane and is just a crystal form of sugarcane juice. But there is a lot of misinformation around sugar to promote artificial sweeteners.


Artificial sweeteners amongst other artificial products that have been promoted as substitutes for natural table sugar are termed as a healthier option for those who like sweets. In order to increase their market, these companies have demonized natural sugar derived from the sugarcane plants and related products such as jaggery and khandsari. Centuries-old food practices have helped humans to survive and build their existence which cannot be overlooked or forgotten.


The toxicity of artificial food products has reached deep into our life. These products have been advocated as healthy with enormous advertising. The marketization of products relays the ineffectiveness and harms of natural products and advertised as substitutes. But the irony here is that the same product is either produced in the lab using chemicals or by refining natural substances adding or substituting chemicals or natural ingredients respectively.


In order to monopolize world markets, these companies have ignored the contextual relevance of food and health for their profit. Sugar has been a part of Indian culture for centuries. Consumption of sugar among the Indian population is mostly associated with other nutritional food items such as dry fruits, bajra, rice, etc. Sugar works as a blend of taste and nutrients in food. That is the reason sugar has been used during fasting, offering to gods, social gatherings, and personal greetings. The presence of sugar creates moments of happiness. The use of sugar has always been in moderation as too sugary or too salty both ensue to ruin the texture and taste of the food.


Diseases have been named after sugar. It often misleads population and shift them towards artificial sweeteners that term themselves sugar free. But actually, these artificial sweeteners are of fewer calories and made chemically in labs. These artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than natural table sugars. There are many researches that have found increase intake of carbs consumption when people switched to artificial sweeteners. The reason behind such increase is misinformation which prevailed among consumers. People often confused to think that eating sugar free would not lead to obesity and overweight that caused several non-communicable diseases (NCDs). But many researches indicates that people taking artificial sweeteners have gained weight. Some of the studies also suggested that artificial sweeteners such as Saccharine leads to cancer.


In India average sugar consumption per capita is still very low and has been decreasing. The daily intake of added sugar of total consumption is only 5 % and 19 gm/day i.e., much lesser than WHO recommendation of 10 % of total energy intake and ICMR recommendation of 30g/day respectively. A recent study conducted by Through Arbitrage Research Institute, India states that about 1 in 10 Indians suffers from NCD, mainly caused by poor lifestyle and environmental conditions. Though there are no direct connection with sugar intake and NCDs, sugar has been blamed blindly.

The changes in lifestyle have to be blamed for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and weight gain. People are going for more and more junk foods. People are living sedentary lifestyle as the reach of technology has increased many folds. One should remember that food is energy to one’s body and to for digestion it requires a physically active lifestyle.


Studies conducted in India clearly shows that sugar intake in the country is much lower than the recommended amount. Then, why does blame sugar? Is there a planning to replace natural table sugar with artificial sugar? Consumers have to be cautious as natural sugars are healthy diet requirement. And one just not needed sweetness when having food, it is about the naturalness that should come first.


References:


https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/biggest-killer-in-india-is-not-a-virus/articleshow/81909921.cms


https://www.nin.res.in/survey_reports/sugar_study_report_part-1.pdf