Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles I always thought a low-fat diet was the way to go. Saturated fat was always the enemy, because it raises your cholesterol. And then there was a big war on this - good old salt, because it raises your blood pressure. But now, it seems, something that's been innocently lurking in our cupboards for centuries is the new public enemy number one. It's sugar, and you know what? I don't really know why, so I'm going to go and find out. 'I'm Fiona Phillips and, like most of us, 'I love my sweet treats... Mmm. '..but I want to discover the latest science 'about what sugar is really doing to us...' This is the part of the brain that reacts when you have sugary foods and sugary drinks. '..and why you might be eating far more than you think.' Oh, that is a lot of sugar. 'I'll be uncovering how you can spot the sugar 'in foods you'd think were sugar-free...' Nearly nine and a half teaspoons. - 20 teaspoons in that bottle. - Argh! '..how clever cookery can get sweet results without adding sugar...' And it's really delicious! '..and revealing the sugars 'that even doctors say you can enjoy guilt-free.' - You do like oranges? - I do, yes. - LAUGHTER 'I'm going to find out the surprising, 'and very sticky, truth about sugar.' Wow! 'We Brits love our sugar. 'It's one of life's great pleasures. 'And we're getting through over a million tonnes a year. 'That's 15 teaspoons each, a day. 'There's no getting away from it... 'that's more than we should be eating. 'I'm meeting up with four rather brave volunteers 'in Newcastle. 'I'm going to start by showing them how much sugar each of them 'is getting through every week.' You've got a table each. See if you can pick your table out. You already have! Yeah, that's me. Sweets. That's terrible. 'They all suspect that they might have too sweet a tooth, 'and want to do something about it, 'so I'm asking them to cut back to just six teaspoons a day, 'a target the World Health Organization 'believes is the best to aim at. 'First up is Cara Patterson.' Here's Cara's table. It is predominantly brown. Yes. Chocolate. Lots of chocolate. I even know that you eat chocolate for breakfast. I do, yes. Chocolate and coffee. 'Cara Patterson splits her time between working at a school 'and being home, looking after her four-year-old son, Noah.' Sit next to us, Mam. Is that an order? 'She worries that sugar is taking over her life.' I'm definitely addicted to sugar. I crave it. The worst time that I want sugar is as soon as I wake up. Breakfast always contains something sweet, whether it's cakes, biscuits, chocolate... Well, Cara, your average daily sugar intake... was 28 teaspoons. 28 teaspoons a day. That's not good, is it? 'So Cara's eating nearly five times 'the six teaspoons a day target 'that I want her to aim for. 'This is going to mean some big changes for her.' Ah. You may well look nervous, Rick. 'Rick Shabilla comes from a Sikh family 'with a history of type-2 diabetes. 'He worries that his love of sugary Indian sweets 'could land him in the same boat.' They're so colourful and they look so innocent, but they are little assassins. You've got your Indian desserts, which we know are very high - in sugars. - Yeah, and these are normally accompanied with some ice cream. - Which would be adding even more sugars. - More. I think, Pauline, you should do the honours, or would you like to reveal your sugar consumption? - No, please. - You want Pauline to do it! OK! - 29 teaspoons per day. - In a day? - A day. - A day. That's really terrifying, to be honest. 'Like Cara, Rick is also nearly five times 'over where I want him to be.' 'Audrey Cannon feels her weight is getting out of control. 'A life on the road as an acquisitions manager 'has led to a diet of processed food and sugary snacks.' I'll be going into meetings and things, and coming out of meetings and jumping straight in the car. It's just as easy for me to eat in the car as it is to stop off and have something, because I just want to get home, sometimes. - You're having quite a few supermarket ready meals. - Mm-hm. You've got a chilli beef here. That contains five teaspoons of sugar, in half the pack, which is a portion. I wouldn't even think to look at the sugar content. I would maybe look at the calories or the fat, but I've never ever thought of looking at sugar. Your average daily intake was 23 teaspoons. Oh, dear. 'So, to be on target, 'Audrey's going to have to cut 'pretty well three quarters of the sugar from her diet.' 'Simon Gallagher loves his fizzy pop...' That's so cold. '..but, at 26 stones, he's becoming increasingly worried about his health.' On a normal day, I'd have three or four cans of fizzy drink. If I'm at home, it can be pretty much any amount, until I feel... like, sick, basically, or until I haven't got any left. Simon, you're smiling now. Yeah, out of nerves. The problem is that you have a huge amount of sugar. As it stands, you're having a whopping 39 teaspoons of sugar - every day. That's... - Yeah, that's a lot. Just to reiterate, this is 57 kilos per year, or 14,000 teaspoons of sugar that you're putting into your body. 'Simon is six and a half times over 'and will have to make the biggest changes of all. 'Although current guidelines 'suggest we should aim at less than 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, 'the World Health Organization thinks 'if we can reduce this to six, 'it would have even bigger health benefits. 'It's going to be a tough target for my volunteers, 'but I'm hoping the more I can learn about sugar, 'the more I can help them cut back. 'The sugars we need to be looking out for are known as free sugars. 'These include the sugars found in honey, 'syrups and fruit juices. 'But the main culprit 'is refined sugar we add to food.' 'But what does refining sugar actually involve? 'And why does it make it a potential health problem? 'Biologist Dr Marty Jopson is going to help me find out.' This is one piece of sugar cane. - I've cut it in half. - Beautiful-looking thing. So it's a huge grass that grows down in the tropics. This stuff is packed full of sugar, and the way we get it out - the first thing we have to do is we need to break it down a bit, so here, look. Have a mallet. Crikey. Where do I start? Anywhere you want. Start at that end, OK? That's it. - OK. I think you've enjoyed that far too much. - I did, actually. - I'll take that away from you! - Burned all my calories off, too. Now what I'm going to do is give you this bowl. You need to come round there, catch the juice as it comes out of the mangle. Here we go. 'Easier said than done, Marty.' Yep, there's some spluttering out already. 'All sugars are natural and come from plants.' - Are you all right, there?! - Yeah, this is, uh... 'Sugar cane and sugar beet are used in sugar production, 'as they have particularly high concentrations. 'All this refining is designed to 'make that concentration even higher.' - I've safely delivered us some sugary juice down here. - OK. 'Carbon dioxide is then used to remove impurities like wax, 'gum and fats, 'all with the aim of giving us pure, refined sugar.' That's it. And now we just have to boil it down. So what we have now... is a thick syrup. We leave that to cool and the sugar will start to crystallise out. And what you'll end up with is this, which is one I made earlier, - which is... - Refined sugar. - Refined sugar. There's a lot of treacle there, as well. - Yeah. - But that... - Mmm. - ..is incredibly sweet. - Mm. However, there's not that much of it, is there, considering it came from all of this bulk here, and all the effort it took to get it out! Yes, exactly. We're going to throw away all of this roughage and fibre, so what you're left with here is essentially pure calories. 'So the refined sugar that we use at home 'has basically had all the fibre and roughage stripped away, 'to become pure energy. 'And Marty wants to show me just how much energy there is 'in the four grams of sugar that make up a level teaspoon.' I've taken a teaspoon - a level teaspoon, mind you - of icing sugar, and put one in each of these tubes. We've got two teaspoons of sugar. - You take those. - OK. - Put them on first. And what we're going to do... is... blow down these tubes. Blow, mind you. On three. Three, two, one. Wow! So all that energy in one level teaspoon of sugar. Exactly. That's the energy you get if you eat it as well. It's the same amount of energy. 'The flames may look impressive, 'but this energy is the real danger of sugar. 'If you don't burn it off, 'it can make you fat very quickly. 'But I had no idea just how quickly.' - Imagine, say, you're drinking three cups of tea a day. - OK. - You put two teaspoons of sugar in every cup... - Yup. ..for 365 days, and imagine you're also not burning off that, how much of my lovely fat substitute would you end up in your artificial belly, if all of your sugar that you put into your tea was turned into fat and it wasn't burned off? Six teaspoons a day for a whole year, and I didn't burn it off? Correct. How many of these? One of these, do you reckon? - One. Let's try one. - OK, let's do one. 'Sugar is one the cheapest form of calories. 'It's not just bad for your teeth. 'If you have too much, your liver will end up 'turning it into fatty acids 'that your body will store as fat.' It feels really uncomfortable. So this is the second of my bottles. OK. More? - I don't want more, but if... - There is more, I'm afraid. - Oh, my goodness. Here we go. We're getting there. We're getting there. So what you've got there is four and a half kilos of fat - that's over half a stone. I know - I can feel it! And all because of your six teaspoons of sugar that you were having every day for a whole year, that were excess to what you need. Having a sweet tooth like that can lead to weight problems which could be seriously dangerous. 'If just a few excess calories from sugar 'can cause issues over time, 'what have high-sugar diets done to my four volunteers? 'At Newcastle University, 'Professor Mike Trennel is going to find out.' One of the problems with sugar is it allows you to take large amounts of calories on very quickly, which can make you obese.