Mrs. Abel, in the government pamphlet Sugar as Food, calls attention to the fact that the consumption of sugar is everywhere increasing. In England eighty-six pounds per capita and in the United States sixty-four pounds per capita were consumed in the year 1895. This means simply the sugar that is manufactured in this form, and does not include that taken in the form of various fruits and vegetables.
The desire for sugar seems to be universal, and the fact that children always crave it would seem to be an indication that it is needed in their diet. On the ether hand, we must remember that the manufacture of sugar is comparatively a late matter, and that earlier, a hundred years or so ago, people got along without it except as naturally present in their foods.
In using sugar it must be remembered that it is a highly concentrated food, and that it is therefore not to be used in such large quantities as would be right in the case of foods containing a large amount of water. It seems best fitted for assimilation by the body when it is diluted or used with other foods that give it the necessary bulk. It is also an error to use sugar, as is so often clone, with other foods in such a way or in so large an amount as to disguise the natural flavor of these foods.
One of the advantages of sugar is that it passes quickly into the circulation, so that the energy obtained from it is available in a very short period. It is particularly fitted for food in cases of exhaustion.
The bad effects of sugar are ascribed by Mrs. Abel to its use in too great quantity. Three or four ounces a day can be disposed of by the healthy adult with impunity. It has generally been thought that sugar is injurious to the teeth, but this also is denied. Any bad effects of this kind are due not to sugar in the diet, but to the allowing particles of sweet food to re-for acid fermentation and possible injury to the teeth.
The source of most of the sugar used until a few years ago was the sugar cane. Now over half of the sugar used in the world is obtained from the sugar beet. In 1904, only about 10 per cent of the sugar used in the United States came from the sugar beet. There has been an impression that beet root sugar is less satisfactory for many purposes than the cane sugar, but it is identical chemically. It may be true in some cases that the beet root sugar has not been completely purified, and that these impurities give an odor to the sugar upon boiling, and possibly affect some of its uses; but the properly prepared sugar may be used in every way that sugar from the sugar cane may; indeed, it is impossible to distinguish between them.
Another sugar of which we hear a good deal is glucose. This has been made much of as an adulterant, particularly of candy. There is, however, no reason to think that glucose is less digestible or less easily assimilated than cane sugar. Indeed, it is more nearly ready for assimilation. When we boil sugar for any length of time in the presence of an acid, we change a certain amount of the sugar into glucose. Candy that will stretch we may be sure contains at least some of its sugar in this form. If glucose is pure and properly prepared there is no reason to fear it as an adulterant of candy. The cheap coloring matter and flavors that are used in some of the cheap candies are more to be feared, since some of them are harmful. It is possible that since glucose goes so rapidly into circulation it may overload the system more readily than would plain sugar, and it is more easily fermented.
Maple sugar, regarded as a delicacy, is simply cane sugar plus the flavoring matters found in the maple tree. Milk sugar is generally considered the most easily digested form of sugar and it less easily undergoes fermentation.
Cane sugar is on the market in various forms. Ordinary powdered sugar is, of course, the same substance as granulated sugar, but more finely ground. This is often considered adulterated because it is less sweet than the granulated form, but the lack of sweetness is due to the finely divided condition. A very simple test will serve to show the presence of adulterants since these would probably be either some form of porcelain clay, or starch. If the sugar dissolves in water neither of these can be present.
The brown sugars that we use are simply cane sugar that has not been decolorized, or has been only partially so treated.
Molasses formerly was obtained as a bi-product in the manufacture of sugar, and was the part of the sugar-cane juice that would not crystallize, containing a large per cent of glucose. With modern methods of work and with the coming in of beet sugar, whose molasses has such a strong flavor that it cannot be put upon the market, a manufactured molasses came into use. The commercial molasses of the present day is frequently glucose, prepared from starch, colored and flavored with a small amount of molasses from the sugar factories. Sometimes the light molasses has been bleached, and the bleaching agents, unless completely removed, may be injurious. Sorghum molasses is also used in some sections.
One comparison in regard to the addition of sugar to the diet may be interesting. In the case of milk, it has been found that an addition of this in any large amount to the diet means a corresponding decrease in the amount of other foods used. This seems not to be true of sugar. When sugar is furnished freely in abundance, it does not decrease the use of other foods, but sometimes by adding to the flavor of these actually increases thier consumption. On the other hand, the desire for sugar often marks an inadequate diet.