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Sugar

Sugar is a white crystalline solid consisting almost entirely of sucrose that is commonly used as a sweetener in food production, and as an additive in drinks such as tea and coffee.

In culinary terms, sugar is a type of food associated with one of the primary taste sensations, that of sweetness. It is an unhealthy favorite of children across the world.

Culinary sugar is available in many forms, from "brown" or "raw" (which is not truly raw, but refined from sugarcane) to highly refined "white" sugar. Turbinado sugar is raw sugar that has been steam-cleaned. Sugar comes in lumps, grains and powder.

Production Sugar is extracted from sugar cane, sugar beets, or sugar palm[?] by a refining process. In the financial year 2001/2002, 134.1 million tonnes of sugar were produced worldwide.

The major cane sugar producing countries are countries with warm climates, such as Australia, Brazil, and Thailand. In 2001/2002 there was over twice as much sugar produced in developing countries as in developed countries. The greatest quantity of sugar is produced in Latin America & the Caribbean nations, and in the Far East.

Ironically, the world's second largest sugar exporter is the EU. Although beet sugar costs four times as much to produce as cane sugar, huge subsidies and a high import tariff make it difficult for other countries to export to the EU, or compete with it on world markets.

The raw vegetable material is crushed, and the juice is collected and filtered. The liquid is then treated (often with lime) to remove impurities, this is then neutralised with sulfur dioxide. The juice is then boiled, sediment settles to the bottom and can be dredged out, scum rises to the surface and this is skimmed off. The heat is removed and the liquid crystallises, usually while being stirred, to produce sugar which can be poured into moulds. A centrifuge can also be used during crystallisation.

There is little difference between sugar made from beet and that made from cane, but sophisticated tests can distinguish the two, and have been developed to reduce fraudulent abuse of EU subsidies.

Chemistry In biochemistry, a sugar is the simplest molecule that can be identified as a carbohydrate. Multiple sugar molecules linked together form a polysaccharide.

The term "glyco-" indicates the presence of a sugar in an otherwise non-carbohydrate substance: for example, a glycoprotein is a protein to which one or more sugars are connected.

Simple sugars include sucrose, fructose, glucose, maltose and mannose.

Two simple sugars, ribose and deoxyribose, are principal components of RNA and DNA, respectively. Ribose is also a component of several chemicals that are important to the metabolic process, including NADH[?] and ATP.

History Sugar cane has long been known in tropical areas of the world, and was chewed raw to extract its sweetness. Later sugar refining was developed in the Middle East, India and China, where it became a staple of cooking and desserts. Later sugar spread to other areas of the world through trade. It arrived in Europe with the arrival of the Moors. Crusaders also brought sugar home with them after their campaigns in the Holy Land. While sugar cane could not be grown in Europe, sugar beets could and these began to be widely cultivated.

With the European colonization of the new world the Caribbean became the world's largest source of sugar. Sugar cane could be grown on these islands using slave labour at vastly lower prices than sugar beets could be grown in Europe, or cane sugar imported from the East. Thus the economies of entire islands such as Tobago, Guadaloupe, and Barbados were based on sugar production. Sugar prices fell, especially in England, and what had previously been a luxury good began, by the eighteenth century, to be commonly consumed by all levels of society. At first most sugar in England was used in tea, but later candies and chocolates became extremely popular.

Sugar cane quickly exhausts the soil and production soon fell dramatically in the Caribbean. Production thus spread to South America as well as to new European colonies in Africa. While it is no longer grown by slaves, sugar growing continues to this day to be associated with workers earning minimal wages and living in extreme poverty.

See also: sweetener, glycomics



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