Sugar has been, over the years, important to the Caribbean as it is one of our major exports, made from the sugar cane grown in many of our countries. In addition to using it in sweetening drinks and in cakes, puddings and pastries, we use sugar in our own Caribbean confectionary such as peppermint candy, tamarind balls, coconut, peanut or almond drops, among many other uses.
In this issue of Nyam News we look at sugar in the diet and whether indiscriminate consumption of sugar leads directly to persons becoming obese.
When the term sugar is used by the general public it usually refers to the common household item “table sugar”. However, sugar refers to a class of carbohydrates made up of one or two molecular structures or units. Sugars made up of one unit are called monosaccharides or simple sugars; examples include glucose, fructose and galactose.
Sugars made up of two units are called disaccharides and include sucrose, lactose and maltose. Less commonly known sugars may have three units (trisaccharides or oligosaccharides) or four units (tetrasaccharides). There are also many and varying derivatives associated with sugars which may be natural or manmade. Among these derivatives of sugars are dextrose, mannose, sorbitol, turbinated sugar (turbinado) and sucralose (Splenda). Monosaccharides are the simplest sugars and the final breakdown products of carbohydrate digestion in humans. Although glucose may be best known for its commercial availability as a high energy item, it is also found in abundance in the human body.
Fructose, also referred to as fruit sugar, is found in fruits, some vegetables and honey. Fructose is also a component of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is frequently used in many processed beverages and baked goods. Athird monosaccharide is galactose, found in milk.