Candies From childhood memories of penny sweets to office chocolate binging and coffee mornings laden with home-baked cakes, sugar is an inextricable part of our lives. But recent studies have shown that this addictive substance isn’t actually made of all things nice and could be poisoning us. So why can’t we stop eating it?

Rich Cohen has examined our love affair with sugar by examining America’s relationship with the sweet stuff in “Sugar Love” in the August issue of National Geographic, from which the following excerpt and images are taken.

Candy is dandy, particularly to Americans, who spent $32 billion on sweets in 2011; per capita consumption was 25 pounds. Formerly a luxury item for the rich, candy became affordable with the decline of sugar prices and rise of mass production in the 19th century. The word itself comes from qandi: Arabic for a sugar confection.” – Rich Cohen

Recently the American Heart Association added its voice to the warnings against too much added sugar in the diet. But its rationale is that sugar provides calories with no nutritional benefit. According to Johnson and his colleagues, this misses the point. Excessive sugar isn’t just empty calories; it’s toxic.

“It has nothing to do with its calories,” says endocrinologist Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco. “Sugar is a poison by itself when consumed at high doses.”

Things go better with bubbles—or so it was thought by spa-goers, who often drank sparkling mineral water as part of the cure for what ailed them. The 18th-century discovery that carbon dioxide put the fizz in fizzy water led to systems for producing soda water, then to sweet drinks like root beer, ginger ale, and cola. Today’s 12-ounce soda typically contains around ten teaspoons of sugar.” – Rich Cohen

We know that eating excess amounts of sugar is bad for us. The list of ailments associated with sugar intake is endless and we’re taught from a young age that it rots the teeth, causes weight gain, lethargy, diabetes and heart problems, yet it’s never stopped me from reaching for the toffee or polishing off a bag of fruit gums in record time.

Scientists have claimed that we’re primed to crave sugar on an instinctive level as it is connected to our basic desire for survival, meaning that our sense of taste has evolved to desire the molecules necessary to live like salt, fat and sugar.

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