Human beings have a natural tendency to like sweet tastes and we have always looked for different ways to sweeten our food. The junk food industry knows this, and throughout history it has committed multiple practices of questionable ethics. These actions have fueled our addiction to sweets and at the same time have caused a true public health problem.

Honey was the natural way to sweeten food in pre-Hispanic America until Christopher Columbus brought the first sugar cane plants, which thrived in the Caribbean.

For years, sugar was considered a luxury product in Europe. It gradually became more affordable, and by the 19th century it became a staple item.

Before the development of the sugar industry worldwide, the practice of adding sweeteners to food was limited to a few items. However, with the development of the food industry, sweet taste became an increasingly important element when selling a wide range of products: from drinks, to snacks, to less obvious items such as breakfast cereals, breads, and pasta sauces.

A recent report from the University of California revealed that between and , the sugar industry paid prominent scientists from Harvard University to minimize the relationship between sugar (sucrose and its derivatives) and heart disease.

According to the study, the industry’s goal was to claim that the only cause of heart disease was fat consumption, which deceived the medical community and society at large.

From to , there was a 25 increase in added sugars in food products (mainly high fructose corn syrup) after being classified as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In this same period obesity rates shot up.

Today the consensus of the scientific community is that sugars are largely responsible for creating conditions that affect the heart.

On , the New York Times reported that the sugary drink industry contributed millions of dollars to conduct a study that sought to minimize the relationship between these drinks and obesity. The study said that obesity was caused solely by lack of exercise and not so much by bad eating habits, which in reality is untrue.

Today many products listed as healthy actually have enormous amounts of hidden sugar. For instance, low-fat salad dressings, granola bars, low-fat cereals, flavored vitamin water, pureed canned fruit for babies, low-fat crackers, and yogurts are some of the products that are marketed as healthy but actually are not.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in three adults in North Carolina is obese. This is an alarming figure because being overweight or obese can result in problems such as diabetes and heart disease, conditions that are destroying our community.

The best tool we have to fight against the industry’s immoral practices is to be well-informed. This means reading the labels on the products we consume and understanding that we must avoid foods with added sugar or sweeteners. If you feel like eating something sweet, opt for a piece of fruit instead.

Diego Barahona A.

Periodista, editor, asesor, y presentador. De 2016 a 2019 el periodista más galardonado en Estados Unidos por los Premios José Martí. Autor del best seller: ¿Cómo leer a las personas? dbarahona@lanoticia.com

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