By Mary Contini

THERE is a nostalgic fashion in our seaside towns to visit retro sweetie shops – small premises squeezed on our high streets lined with ceiling-high shelves of jars filled with shiny, colourful sweeties; Buchanan’s toffees, Ferguson’s Edinburgh Rock, ‘lucky tatties’, ‘sherbet dabs’.

Lingering in a queue watching children choose their favourites, sharing their genuine excitement as they hand over the money and reach up for a bag of sweeties, who can resist?

Our taste for all things sweet is an inheritance from the trade in sugar in our not so distant past.

Shipped in bulk from the West Indies in the 18th and 19th centuries, sugar refining and processing was quickly set up in cities across Scotland and our national love affair with sugar took hold.

We recognise now that, shamefully, this wealth and trade was founded on slavery, abolished in the 19th century, but still resonating in our culture.

But this is not the only legacy. We have inherited a life-damaging dependence on sugar.

Sugar is addictive. It creates an energy high, spikes blood sugar levels, and ties us to a cycle of constant hunger and over-consumption.

In Scotland, on average a quarter of our dietary intake is sugar or sugar derivatives such as fizzy drinks, bread, pasta, ready meals.

Our poor health record, shorter life expectancy and obesity levels are directly linked to the sugar trade of the past.

The traumatic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic reveals the stark reality of our Achilles heel.

Obesity and its associated illnesses are acknowledged as the highest risk factor in a morbid response to this disease. The virus attacks the weakest and obesity leaves us weak.

It is initially hard to cut sugar out of your diet. Like any drug, it has withdrawal symptoms.

But, after even a few days of abstinence, you sense a relief.

Hunger levels start to even out, appetite is reduced, bloating subsides, mood swings even out.

Try this approach for a couple of weeks, then you can introduce sugar products again, for what they should be: a treat, not a drug.