The human affinity for sweet-tasting things appears to be universal. Nonetheless, the consumption of sweeteners, most notably in the form of processed sugar, has not remained constant over human history. Broadly speaking, per capita sugar consumption has increased significantly over time from its first documented usage in the early first millennium BC in the Bengal region of northeastern India to our sugar-saturated present. But this rise has not been a steady one, nor has it always moved at the same pace in different parts of the world. Indeed, the meteoric increase in sugar consumption in the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has been heralded as a global “epidemic” by many nutritionists. Scholars who have studied the history and the economics of this phenomenon have ...

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