Reading a review of British writer Bee Wilson's "First Bite: How We Learn to Eat" in the London Review of Books, I stumbled on an astonishing figure: 4 million people in the U.K. have diabetes. An unhealthy diet and increasingly sedentary lifestyle have taken their toll, causing a 65 percent surge in cases in the past decade alone. Treating this epidemic is costing the National Health Service an estimated £1 million (roughly ¥155 million) an hour.

Obesity is the main culprit, and one major dietary factor is the high-sugar content in many processed foods. It was astounding to learn that tomato ketchup (22.8 percent) has a higher sugar content than Coca-Cola (10.6 percent), and that we consume far more glucose-fructose syrup and other sugary ingredients than most people are probably aware of.

Globalization in eating habits has spread a craving for what dieticians call "SFS": sugar, fat, salt. Sweet-salty food with an undercurrent of fat is a global crowd-pleaser and the mainstay at fast-food restaurants, but is not good for our health. Coffee itself isn't bad for you, but all those flavored lattes are oozing sugar and calories.