With dire warnings in a new documentary film and the World Health Organisation urging people to cut their intake to just six teaspoons a day, sugar has not been getting any good press of late.
But Laura Pritchard (University of Oxford, UK) has leapt to the defence of the little white substance – or at least remind us of the pivotal role different types of sugar can play in healthy body functions.
Laura’s article ‘The Sweet Life’ is the winner of the Biochemical Society’s 2014 Science Communication Competition. Now in its fourth year, the competition calls for undergraduates and postgraduates (including non-Society members) to submit biomolecular articles aimed at the general public.
With 57 entries, it was a hard decision for judges to decide the recipient of the £500 first place prize.
But Laura’s piece on sugar – or more specifically glucose, fructose, galactose and lactose – gave the judges pause for thought. Yes, excessive sugar intake can be bad, and certain types particularly so. But with its role in lubricating our joints, supporting our immune system and fuelling our glucose-loving brains, sugar in itself is a wondrous substance.
Laura said the news came as a surprise. “I’m really happy that my submission was so well received. Communicating science to a wider audience is an exciting challenge and I’d encourage more people to give it a go.”
Her article will be published in the August edition of The Biochemist, our monthly member’s magazine.
If you are now craving a can of fizzy drink, don’t blame this article. Blame your mother instead, at least according to our second-place article ‘You are what your mother ate’.
Written by Maria Alfaradhi (University of Cambridge, UK), the articles covers research on how maternal under and over nutrition can impact how a child responds to food. Children born of over-nourished mothers are more prone to developing metabolic disorders, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, it says.
Maria says: “I’ve often thought of trying my hand at written science communication but didn’t think I’d be good enough to get very far. So when my article was shortlisted, and then selected, I was delighted.”
Third place went to Ross Harper (University College London, UK) for his article “What’s the time Mr Wolf?”. He challenges us to not think of time as that on a clock, but rather the 1000 nerve cells behind the human eye that regulate our natural circadian rhythm. With artificial light everywhere, we are disrupting this internal body clock. This can lead to not just sleep disorders, but cancer, diabetes and a myriad of mental health problems.
Ross is already eager to get started on his next piece. “Ultimately, we write to be heard. That is the goal. However, a key challenge for any young scientist is to shed the white-coated stereotype and engage with a wider audience.”
Maria and Ross’ articles will be published in the October edition of The Biochemist.
Finally, we had three runner ups:
- Alexis Bick (University of Cape Town, South Africa): ‘Plague from the past pops up again’
- Shanna Hamilton (University of Cardiff, UK): ‘A sinister sandman and a mermaid’s scorn’
- Lois Ogunlana (University of Edinburgh, UK): ’The 5 second rule; is it worth it?’
Congratulations to all our winners and runner ups, and everyone who took up our science communication challenge.