This is a detailed, well-considered article from the NYT magazine about refined sugar. It deals with the question of whether sugar is bad for us simply because it contributes to our eating too many calories, and thus to gaining weight, or if in fact sugar triggers a series of deadly effects in the human body. According to the article, there is evidence (though not entirely conclusive) that refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup can lead to fatty liver and overproduction of insulin. Overproduction of insulin is in turn linked to cancer and heart disease, which are almost nonexistant in populations that eat little refined sugar, and very prevalent in those that eat a lot.
It's a pretty damning indictment of sugar. I ask myself if molasses or panela, essentially unrefined sugars, have the same bad effects on the body, or if the presence of other vitamins, minerals, and things like that mean that they act differently in the human body than white sugar. If panela or molasses are indeed sweeteners without all of sugar's awful effects on health, Colombia could really position itself as an important producer of these "healthy sweeteners".