Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sugar like Cocaine?!

Sometimes, people use gross comparisons to get their point across. It infuriates me when I notice how WRONG their comparison is, even if their point is correct. It's like spreading a rumor that has just enough truth to it so it spreads.

Ok, confusing thought without context. This is what I mean...
Regarding sugar, and making the point that sugar is essentially bad for you:

"...Dr. David Reuben, author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition says, ".white refined sugar-is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. Its true name is sucrose and its chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms, and absolutely nothing else to offer." ...The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4. Sugar's formula again is C12H22O11. For all practical purposes, the difference is that sugar is missing the "N", or nitrogen atom."

This is written in a very convincing manner. And I'm sure many people would believe that sugar is just one nitrogen atom away from cocaine.
But, although sugar is terrible for your health (for many reasons) it's NOT similar to cocaine. Yes, they are both organic molecules (containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen) and they are both addictive... but that's it.

This is cocaine:

And this is sucrose (the most common type of sugar):

As you can see, there's no similarity in structure (thus neither in function). But this quote is used as evidence on a well-intentioned popular blog post and on an online article. 

List of structural differences: 
  • no benzene ring in sucrose (a very characteristically stable structural component)
  • no nitrogen in sucrose (a completely different element with its own functional structure)
  • 2 six membered carbon rings in cocaine vs. 1 ring of six and 1 ring of 5 in sucrose
  • 2 ester groups in cocaine, none in sucrose
  • 1 ether group in sucrose, none in cocaine
  • numerous alcohol groups (-OH) in sucrose, none in cocaine
  • different amount of carbons and hydrogens

Careful what you believe, especially on the internet.

Organic Chemistry 261 and 263 classes at University of Alberta

Image credit to Wikipedia.


P.S. Fun example of structure differences:
CO vs. CO2
One kills you silently, whereas the other is a harmless by-product of breathing.
(carbon monoxide vs. carbon dioxide)

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