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  • 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.