Jayne Dawson: The sweetest thing, but now it’s the enemy in our midst

VICE CUBE: The World Health Organisation is considering lowering our recommended sugar intake.
VICE CUBE: The World Health Organisation is considering lowering our recommended sugar intake.
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There is a new enemy amongst us: it’s not the aliens, it’s not the Russians come back to have a go at hotting up the Cold War. Crikey, it’s not even the Australian cricket team.

It’s worse than all of that. This enemy is everywhere, and I mean everywhere, posing as something sweet and nice.

It’s in your cupboards, it’s in your blood, it might even be in your tea.

Sugar is running amok.

Time was when fat was the enemy. It was fat that turned you and your arteries to lard, gave you enough blubber to make a seal proud and created a fast track route to the intensive care unit – if you were lucky.

Then fat got rehabilitated, sort of. You had to choose your fats carefully. Some of them still wanted to rip off your head and spit down your neck – so to speak – but others, well, it turned out they were rooting for you all along.

So in those faraway days ...before Christmas it was ...we knew, more or less, where we were. Bad fats were nasty, good fats were bravely doing their best, and sugar was a bit of a fairweather friend.

It was one of those things that was okay sometimes, as long as you didn’t even think of relying on it – which was a green light to go right ahead and knock yourself out as far as I was concerned.

I chose to interpret the advice this way because I love sugar, adore sugar, could live my life on sugar. If my every meal from now on was made of sugar, I would be ecstatic.
Once, I worked in a factory packing chocolate into Christmas stockings. Bars of all types would pour onto the table in front of us, and we would stuff the appropriate selection into the appropriate bit of stocking.

It was July, it was hot outside and it was a pig of a job, but I was happy. As the summer hit Barbados by Typically Tropical belted out, I would be looking forward to my morning break (two Topics) my lunch (two Mars bars) and my walk-to-the-bus-stop snack (a Twix and some Smarties).

Yes I gained half a stone, but it was the best six weeks I have ever spent.

My next happiest moment came when my friend’s sister told me that all calories were not the same, and that if you had to consume them, always choose the sugar not the fat. I didn’t know my friend’s sister very well, but I knew she had once won a cycling race and so her opinion counted. I have followed her advice always.

But now this. Now we are hearing all sorts of tales designed to shock. Studies have been carried out. People are taking notice. There is talk of caveman diets, only eating what our ancestors ate, and that apparently did not include Maltesers, Dime Bars or Quality Street.

Some of these sugar denouncers know how to hurt. Sugar makes you look old, they are claiming. It messes with your skin and ruins your chances of being a beautiful oldie, they allege.

Sugar is addictive, they say, and sugar contributes to all manner of nasty illnesses, they relentlessly continue.

Experts at the World Health Organisation are considering lowering the recommended guideline to just over five teaspoons a day instead of the present 10.

In this country we average 12 teaspoons a day, though some really bad adults are doing 46 a day. You know who you are – and welcome to my world.

Don’t just think this figure applies to the sugar you sprinkle on things – that way lies foolish innocence. Sugar is a hidden deliciousness: there are 10 teaspoons in a can of cola, a Mars Bar has five, and Coco Pops have about four. Doesn’t that sound like a great meal?

But for now we have to stop thinking that way. Think green and I don’t mean green Fruit Pastilles, think roots, think caveman. But mostly, keep your chin up. Our enemies tend to change fast.

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