Around 70 percent of the world's sugar supply is extracted from sugar cane, according to website of Sugar Knowledge International. This table sugar, also known as sucrose, is a combination of two simple sugar molecules: the simple carbohydrates fructose and glucose. It is stored in the sap of the sugar cane plant.
According to Sugar Knowledge International, sugar cane is a crop belonging to the grass family, and it is typically grown in tropical climates. The sugar cane plant produces sucrose when its leaves conduct the processes of photosynthesis. When the plant takes in carbon dioxide and water, these combine in a chemical reaction that uses the sun’s energy. Sucrose and oxygen are the resulting products, and while the oxygen is released from the plant, sucrose is stored in the cane’s fluids.
To extract the sucrose, the sugar cane sap must first be extracted and refined. This is done in two steps, since refined sugar can be difficult to ship. Sugar cane is harvested and taken to a factory where it is crushed to get the juice out. The juice is then heated until the water evaporates and syrup forms. The syrup is then boiled until sugar crystals form, leaving a raw sugar product. The sucrose is then shipped to the country where it will be sold, since raw sugar is easier to move and store.
The second step of the sucrose extraction process is called affination, in which sugar crystals are liquefied into a type of liquor. Then, the liquor is processed through a stage called carbonation which removes solid byproducts. The liquor is then decolorized to get the white color of granulated sugar and prepared for crystallization. The sugar liquor is boiled until sucrose crystals form again, and then dried with hot air. The final sucrose granules are then packed and shipped out for consumers.
Sucrose in your Body
According to Dr. Dian Dooley, biochemistry professor at the University of Hawaii, sucrose breaks down much faster than other carbohydrates in your body, since it is a chemical compound of the simple carbohydrates glucose and fructose. Sucrose is broken down into glucose and absorbed quickly from your small intestines into your blood stream, raising your blood sugar and providing fuel to your cells. While this can cause a spike in your blood sugar, your body has mechanisms, like the insulin produced by your pancreas, to level out the glucose in your blood.
- Sugar Knowledge International: How Sugar is Made - An Introduction
- Sugar Knowledge International: How Cane Sugar Is Made - The Basic Story
- Sugar Knowledge International: How Sugar Is Refined - The Basic Story
- MadSci.org; How Does Sugar Effect Physical and Academic Skills; Dian Dooley, , Associate Professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition; September 2003