Sugar — the Modern Plague of Western Culture

Unveiling the Truth Behind Our Sweetest Addiction

Terence Shin, MSc, MBA



As COVID-19 demonstrated, the most dangerous viruses are those that surround us, yet remain invisible. And while sugar is not a virus, it’s certainly as deadly as one.

Sugar is everywhere, but often in disguise. It’s not just in the sweets and sodas; it’s hiding in bread, sauces, and even in foods marketed as “healthy”, “organic”, and “natural”.

This isn’t a trivial observation — it’s a snapshot of a larger, more concerning picture. The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar daily, nearly double the global average. This stark contrast isn’t just a matter of taste differences or dietary trends. It’s emblematic of a deep-rooted health crisis that’s only just beginning to be acknowledged. Excessive sugar intake is also more than a dietary issue; it’s a cultural one, contributing to an alarming rise in obesity, diabetes, and cancer. But how did we get here, and what can we do about it? Let’s delve into the sweet, yet perilously sweet, world of sugar in the American diet.

A Sweet History with a Bitter Truth

The history of sugar in the Western diet is a tale of commerce, politics, and manipulation. Sugar, once a rare commodity reserved for the wealthy, became widely available in the 19th century due to colonial expansion and the industrialization of sugar production. Its consumption in America and other Western cultures soared, facilitated by its addictive taste and the food industry’s rapid growth.

The mid-20th century marked a pivotal moment in sugar history. As health concerns regarding heart disease began to rise, the sugar industry recognized a threat to its profits. In response, it launched one of the most influential lobbying efforts in the food industry’s history. This campaign was marked by strategic funding of scientific research and aggressive public relations tactics.

One of the most significant events was in the 1960s when the Sugar Research Foundation (now the Sugar Association) funded studies to downplay sugar’s role in heart disease. The aim was to shift the blame to fats and cholesterol. This led to the publication of