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8,000 BC – It is estimated that sugar cane was first domesticated in New Guinea and then spread to China and beyond.

350 AD – Sugarcane growers in India discover and master how to crystallize sugar using a boiling process of refining cane juice.

11th Century to 1700 – Cane sugar is referred to as the white gold, costing upwards of today’s equivalent of $50/pound and making it unattainable for anyone other than the noble and rich.

1747 – Sugar beets are identified as a new source of commercial sugar, which drives down the prices and makes sugar more affordable to the middle and lower classes. Because of the low cost, sugar is now added to candy, tea, coffee, and many other food items.

1800 – A French medical student identifies the first group of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks the joint lining and cartilage. (Two centuries later, medical research will link sugar as a cause for rheumatoid arthritis.) 1900 – The average British citizen now eats about 100 pounds of sugar per year, and the average American eats approximately 40 pounds a year.

1906 – A German physician, Dr. Alzheimer, first identifies a form of dementia. By the end of the 20th century, an estimated five million Americans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease each year.

1910 – A medical explanation emerges in the US for the rising rates of diabetes: the pancreas of a diabetic patient was unable to produce insulin, a chemical the body uses to break down sugar.

1962 – An estimated 13 percent of American adults meet the criteria for obesity.

1967 – A Japanese scientist invents a cost-effective industrial process for using enzymes to convert glucose in cornstarch to fructose. High-fructose corn syrup derived from corn becomes a cheap alternative sweetener to beet and sugarcane sugar.

1975 – In the US, 400 new cases of cancer occur for every 100,000 people, or a total of 864,000 people each year.

1984 – Soft drinks companies such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola switch from sugar to the cheaper high-fructose corn syrup in US production facilities.

1992 – Cancer rates have climbed to 510 cases for every 100,000 people in the US.

2004 – Obesity now affects 24.5 percent of US adults.

2005 – Each US citizen now eats about 100 pounds of added sugars each year, up from approximately 40 pounds in 1900.

2008 – The average American eats 37.8 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup every year, mostly unknowingly because it is laced in thousands of processed food and drink products.

2008 – Obesity rates hit an all-time high of 32 percent for men and 35 percent for women. Obesity is considered a factor in nearly 400,000 deaths per year.

2011 – The United Nations declares that non-communicable diseases – diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular disease – have overtaken infectious diseases as the world’s leading cause of death.

2015 – The World Health Organization releases official guidelines on sugar intake. They recommend that free sugars (essentially sugars other than naturally occurring sugars in whole foods like fruit) make up no more than 10 percent of our daily diet, with a further suggestion to limit them to 5 percent. Applauded by scientists and nutritionists worldwide and criticized by industry, it’s the most progressive move to date.

Information collected from: and

how refined sugar relates to urban diseases 

(find list of 54 names of processed sugar on next page  or click here)

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