Sugars are found in the tissues of most plants and are present in sugarcane and sugar beet in sufficient concentrations for efficient commercial extraction. In 2017–18, the world production of sugar was 185 million tonnes. The average person consumes about 24 kilograms (53 lb) of sugar each year (33.1 kg in developed countries), equivalent to over 260 food calories per person per day. Since the latter part of the twentieth century, it has been questioned whether a diet high in sugars, especially refined sugars, is good for human health. Over-consumption of sugar has been implicated in the occurrence of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and tooth decay. Numerous studies have been undertaken to try to clarify the position, but with varying results, mainly because of the difficulty of finding populations for use as controls that do not consume or are largely free of any sugar consumption.
The etymology reflects the spread of the commodity. From Sanskritशर्करा (śarkarā), meaning "ground or candied sugar," originally "grit, gravel", came Persianshakar, whence Arabicسكر (sukkar), whence Medieval Latinsuccarum, whence 12th-century Frenchsucre, whence the English word sugar. Italian zucchero, Spanish azúcar, and Portugueseaçúcar came directly from Arabic, the Spanish and Portuguese words retaining the Arabic definite article. The earliest Greek word attested is σάκχαρις (sákkʰaris).
The English word jaggery, a coarse brown sugar made from date palm sap or sugarcane juice, has a similar etymological origin: Portuguese jágara from the Malayalam ചക്കരാ (cakkarā), which is itself from the Sanskrit शर्करा (śarkarā).