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Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food. Table sugar, granulated sugar, or regular sugar, refers to sucrose, a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose.

Simple sugars, also called monosaccharides, include glucose, fructose, and galactose. Compound sugars, also called disaccharides or double sugars, are molecules composed of two monosaccharides joined by a glycosidic bond. Common examples are sucrose (table sugar) (glucose + fructose), lactose (glucose + galactose), and maltose (two molecules of glucose). In the body, compound sugars are hydrolysed into simple sugars.

Longer chains of monosaccharides are not regarded as sugars, and are called oligosaccharides or polysaccharides. Starch is a glucose polymer found in plants, and is the most abundant source of energy in human food. Some other chemical substances, such as glycerol and sugar alcohols, may have a sweet taste, but are not classified as sugar.

Sugars are found in the tissues of most plants. Honey and fruit are abundant natural sources of unbounded simple sugars. Sucrose is especially concentrated in sugarcane and sugar beet, making them ideal for efficient commercial extraction to make refined sugar. In 2016, the combined world production of those two crops was about two billion tonnes. Maltose may be produced by malting grain. Lactose is the only sugar that cannot be extracted from plants. It can only be found in milk, including human breast milk, and in some dairy products. A cheap source of sugar is corn syrup, industrially produced by converting corn starch into sugars, such as maltose, fructose and glucose.

Sucrose is used in prepared foods (e.g. cookies and cakes), is sometimes added to commercially available processed food and beverages, and may be used by people as a sweetener for foods (e.g. toast and cereal) and beverages (e.g. coffee and tea). The average person consumes about 24 kilograms (53 lb) of sugar each year, or 33.1 kilograms (73 lb) in developed countries, equivalent to over 260 food calories per day. As sugar consumption grew in the latter part of the 20th century, researchers began to examine whether a diet high in sugar, especially refined sugar, was damaging to human health. Excessive consumption of sugar has been implicated in the onset of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and tooth decay. Numerous studies have tried to clarify those implications, but with varying results, mainly because of the difficulty of finding populations for use as controls that consume little or no sugar. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended that adults and children reduce their intake of free sugars to less than 10%, and encouraged a reduction to below 5%, of their total energy intake.The sugar contents of common fruits and vegetables are presented in Table 1. The fructose to fructose plus glucose ratio is calculated by including the fructose and glucose coming from the sucrose.

In November 2019, scientists reported detecting, for the first time, sugar molecules, including ribose, in meteorites, suggesting that chemical processes on asteroids can produce some fundamentally essential bio-ingredients important to life, and supporting the notion of an RNA World prior to a DNA-based origin of life on Earth, and possibly, as well, the notion of panspermia.


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