Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

Sugar alternativ­es


As demands for sugar grew, so did the methods of refining sugar from other plants.


In the mid-1700s, Prussia sponsored an experiment that discovered a method of isolating sugar from beets thatwas identical to cane sugar. As a crop, the sugar beet expanded across Europe. The industry took off, fueled by conflict between France and Britain (which cut off sugar to the former). By the 1880s, the beet accounted for 50% of theworld’s sugar production. It was introduced to the U.S. in the 1830s.


High-fructose corn syrup has become ubiquitous as a sweetener in the United States. To make the highfructo­se version, corn syrup, created by breaking down cornstarch, is further processed by converting the glucose in the syrup into fructose. A combinatio­n of factors, including subsidies on corn and import tariffs on sugar, has contribute­d to the rise of high-fructose corn syrup as the industrial sweetener in the U.S., as it is cheaper to produce than many alternativ­es. The consumptio­n of it in the U.S. has declined since peaking at 37.5 pounds per person per year in 1999.

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