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Sugar, how you get so high

Sugar (Photo: Food Insight)

The other day I sat on a plane beside a woman and her young son. He would have been about four years old, just a pint-sized little tacker. The flight attendants handed all passengers a biscuit (in keeping with the Americanisation of our culture, this was labelled ‘cookie’) and Mum ordered a can of lemonade for the little tacker.

I bit into my biscuit. It was sickly sweet and awful, and I put it in the rubbish bag. I looked at the wrapper. It said the cookie weighed 50 grams and contained 17.8 grams of sugar. In other words, more than third of it was sugar, which confirmed my suspicion.

When the woman and her son got up for a toilet visit, I checked the 250ml can of Schweppes lemonade. The ingredient information on the can said it contained 27.5 grams of sugar. (For those in the wine business, like me, who think in grams per litre, this is about 110 grams per litre, or equivalent to a very sweet white wine).

I looked at the little tacker, who was probably a quarter of my body mass, and wondered how on earth his little body would cope with processing that much sugar. And this was a mid-afternoon snack: additional food to whatever other sweet foods he would eat in the course of the day. How well would he sleep that night, as his poor little over-heated body slaved away at digesting the sugar?

The biscuit contained the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar, and the drink, six. Ten teaspoonfuls of pure sugar, and none of it necessary.

Did his mother realise that the body converts unburnt sugar to fat? What’s wrong with a glass of water, which airlines all serve gratis? It tastes better, it refreshes more effectively, it does you no harm and doesn’t leave an unpleasant mawkish aftertaste.

Look around and see how many adults and kids are doing the same thing. Coca-Cola is even worse, and many people drink more of it than they do water. It’s not a ‘treat’ if they drink it every day. I note that Diet Coke has given way to Coke Zero, which is just more spin. The word ‘diet’ has negative connotations, but ‘zero’ sounds cool.

No wonder we have an epidemic of overweight people, not to mention hyperactive kids.

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