The bitterest pill to swallow



Of course, it wouldn’t be January without discovering something new that is killing us. This year it is sugar.

Now that cigarettes are all electric and everyone is running marathons and we all know not to climb pylons or walk on railways tracks anymore, sugar is the bad guy. I know, it’s enough to make you choke on your breakfast doughnut.

Of course we were always vaguely aware that a diet of candyfloss sandwiches wasn’t going to help us live forever, but sugar always used to be the thing that comforted us while we worried about the scarier stuff. Saturated fat; alcohol; sun damage. Standing too close to microwaves. It’s the fanfare at the end of a meal, the reward after a dentist appointment, the reason most of us sing Happy Birthday To You in such loud, tuneful vibrato.

But then campaign group Action on Sugar declared it “worse than tobacco” and suddenly 2014, if the Daily Mail’s misery machine has anything to do with it, will be the year we all go cold turkey on the sweet stuff. And probably on cold turkey too, for of course even processed savoury food is being packed full of sugar.

White bread? Sugar! Pasta sauce? Sugar! Salt? Sugar! Think of anything tasty, anything at all, and the chances are it has a Willy Wonka’s factory worth of corn syrup running secretly through the centre. Sugar is now the drug of our times. Never mind all the strung-out psychedelia corrupting youth in the 60s – turns out The Archies were the real danger all along.

It probably goes without saying that I’m pretty into sugar. In fact, I just looked down and found a chocolate digestive in my hand that I don’t even remember acquiring. After half an hour spent trying to work out exactly why it is that I have such a sweet tooth, and all I’ve managed to come up with is, “because sugar is delicious.” But then, that’s the addled brain of an addict talking.

I flirted with the idea of giving up caffeine recently, because it takes my already anxious disposition and jiggles it up and down like a Shake’n’Vac, but abandoned the plan when I realised that without caffeine, my only vices would be sugar and awful TV. Neither of those are sexy. There’s nothing illicit and dangerous about staying in to watch Storage Hunters and gouge all the cookie dough from a tub of Ben and Jerry’s.

Or at least, there wasn’t – until the papers made sugar the new villain. Now I’m torn between weaning myself off it for the sake of my health, and pouring maple syrup on my sandwiches because it might make me a bit edgy.

If they did a modern remake of Grease (and please don’t, film people) Sandy would probably appear at the end with a Twix hanging from her mouth instead of a fag - which is a rebellion I could definitely embrace. Although I might struggle with the spray-on trousers.