The Loop: Not so sweet

Sugar Image copyright Thinkstock

Welcome to The Loop, the Magazine's letters column, including the best of your thoughts from Twitter and Facebook.

Popular with BBC News Magazine readers story this week was the short explainer on "micro-sleep". According to research, almost half of male drivers experience micro-sleeps at the wheel.

Jock Commentor from Leicester says the best way to avoid sleeping at the wheel is to beat a rhythm on the wheel with your hands in time to music. "I've tried all the usual stuff and this is the best," he says. "Physical movement wakes you up. Prof Horne has forgotten the long distances between motorway services when he says there is always a chance to stop and rest.

Pam Southcombe admits to having a micro-sleep in church once. "When my head nodded, I shouted 'amen'."

The number of young people in the UK drinking alcohol appears to have seen a dramatic decline over the past 10 years, according to the feature on the rise of the young non-drinkers.

Maybe it's because more parents nowadays are letting their children try alcohol, which ultimately puts them off, suggests Nick Clee. "That's what happened to me - I don't drink due to having been allowed to drink from an early age," he wrote.

Michele Bennett says it's probably down to "evolution". "They have seen first hand what effects drinking alcohol have done long term in our generation. Plus they probably don't socialise as much as we used to… too much screen time."

But there were the sceptics. Gerard Donaghy, for one. "I just read this and think, is this for real? It's like the news about sharp declines in crime or anti-social behaviour, it just doesn't chime with real life."

Sticking with the drink theme, we asked if there should there be a word for "almost alcoholic" - for those who drink too much but fall short of the common definitions of alcoholism. After all, the intensely negative nature of the word alcoholic leaves some people scrabbling for an alternative.

Georgina Polly Hawkins left this message on the Magazine's Facebook page: "I found it very difficult to accept I was an alcoholic. My doctor called me Alcohol Dependent (same thing really!) but until I reached my own ROCK BOTTOM I was never going to do anything about it. I am now 7 years sober, and one day at a time I continue to stay sober."

Daniel Lee left a similar note: "My name's Dan and I'm an alcoholic. Sobered up when I was 24 and haven't had to have a drink or use a drug for over 16 years. For me, there's no such thing as an almost alcoholic. One's either an alkie or one isn't. I wasn't, however, ready to call myself an alcoholic until I hit bottom. But I would definitely have agreed that I was a problem drinker.

"I didn't have to end up down and out... I was able to see rock bottom before I hit it, so chose to stop riding the lift all the way down. Being an alcoholic, as I understand it, is nothing to do with the quantity consumed, but everything to do with the reasons for which it is consumed."

On Thursday, it was announced that a campaign group had been formed to reduce the amount of sugar added to food and soft drinks in an effort to tackle obesity and diabetes in the UK. The new group aims to help people avoid "hidden sugars" and get manufacturers to reduce the ingredient over time.

In response to the Magazine's piece highlighting five foods that are surprisingly high in sugar, Bill Cardwell of Bangor, Northern Ireland, emailed us to say: "I have Type 2 diabetes so I often find myself reading labels for sugar content. Its surprisingly difficult to find packaged food without sugar; often astonishing amounts in soups, for example."

But the whole notion irked Bob Brownlie from Kelty in Scotland. "We've got the salt police, the anti-smoking mob, and now the sugar agency. Some people clearly have too much time on their hands," he wrote. "Guess I'm one of them," he added.

Candy from York wondered why the recommended daily sugar intake is higher for men than women. "Why do men (unless they're farmers, miners, etc) need more sugar than women this year? During WWII the sugar ration was the same for every adult civilian, no?"

Of the five foods highlighted by Magazine (low-fat yoghurt, tomato-based pasta sauce, coleslaw, enhanced water and bread), Danny from Walthamstow, London, had this to say: "It appears that men have nothing to worry about as the sugar only appears on women's plates?"

And one disgruntled reader: "Please don't tell me you've discontinued the stat and quote of day? They used to be one of the main reasons I came to the website everyday:(Next it'll be the caption competition at which point you may as well just do away with the entire Magazine :'(

No, there's lots more to what we do. Really there is. Take the time to visit the Loop on a weekend and you'll discover hitherto undiscovered delights.

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