Everyone knows that obesity isn’t good for overall health, and that cutting back on sugar will help to shrink the number of calories consumed.
But new research suggests that it’s not just the effect that sugar has on weight that’s the problem, it appears to have a negative effect on health, irrespective of the individual’s weight.
To test this theory researchers at Touro University California and UC San Francisco carried out some studies which yielded some surprising results.
In this study, the researchers selected 43 children with ages ranging between 10 and 18 years old, all of whom displayed at least one sign of chronic metabolic disorder, along with obesity.
Metabolic disorder is the umbrella term for a collection of problems which include raised cholesterol, high blood pressure, impaired glucose tolerance and a high portion of fat around the middle. These conditions can go on to cause life threatening conditions and diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes as well as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Until recently these diseases were almost unheard of in children but the rising incidence of metabolic syndrome is changing the landscape.
Researchers believed that a simple sugar reduction would lead to improving health, irrespective of any weight loss.
During the study, the aim was to stabilize the weight of the child because losing weight would not demonstrate whether any benefits were the effects of the weight loss or the sugar reduction.
Over a nine day period, the children were all given a low sugar diet, specifically restricting the intake of fructose, while still allowing them to eat fruit. Although sugar intake was reduced, the calorie consumption was kept exactly the same.
Fat, protein, carbohydrates and calories were all kept unchanged from their previous diets, and the children were weighed every day to check for weight loss. If there were any signs of weight loss occurring, calorie intake was increased.
Although sugar was restricted, the food substituted was deliberately designed to be the kinds of foods that children would eat such as pizza, potato chips and hot dogs, all bought from local grocery stores.
At the end of the nine days, the children’s metabolic scores were taken again and compared to their pre-diet results.
Despite there being no substantial weight loss in the nine day period, the results show a substantial change in a number of the metabolic markers previously measured.
Fasting insulin (a measure of the ability to manage glucose) was down by 53%; fasting triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (both “bad” fats) were down by 46% and 13% respectively while blood pressure was also lower by 4%.
These results were achieved in just 9 days with sugar reduction, with no corresponding loss in weight.
Despite having the same amount of calories, the children said they felt like they were being “overwhelmed” with food at times. Researchers believe that by reducing the sugar, the children were able to respond and understand their satiety cues more accurately, which in the longer term could help to prevent over-eating.
The results reveal that a calorie is not created equal and the potential for improving health could be as easy as cutting back on sugar. In just nine days children were able to achieve significant improvements in their metabolic markers, despite not dropping the number of calories they were consuming or increasing their exercise.
Although more studies need to be done on the long term effects, it’s clear to see that sugar has a negative impact on health, even disregarding any potential weight issues. By driving up blood pressure and cholesterol, impairing the ability to manage glucose and increasing fat within the liver, sugar is a toxin that the body struggles to deal with effectively.
If you want to improve your health without having to restrict your intake, cut back on the amount of sugar you consume and you could find a radical difference in just a short space of time.
(Full medical study is here)