Does Sugar Lead to Weight Gain?

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“Does Sugar Lead to Weight Gain?” The obesity epidemic may
just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of excess body fat. It’s been estimated that 91%
of adults—9 out of 10 of us— and 69% of children in the
The United States is “overfat,” defined as excess body fat sufficient
to impair health that can occur even in normal-weight individuals,
often due to excess abdominal fat. The way to tell if you’re overfat is if your waist circumference
is more than half your height.

What’s causing this epidemic? One primary cause may be all
the added sugars we’re eating. A century ago, sugar was heralded as one of the cheapest
forms of calories in the diet. Just ten cents’ worth of sugar could
furnish thousands of calories. Harvard’s sugar-pushing nutritionist
bristled at the term empty calories. The calories in sugar were
“not empty but full of energy.” In other words, full of calories, which
we now are getting too many of. The excess body weight of the
US population corresponds to about a 350 – 500 calorie excess
daily caloric intake on average. So, to revert the obesity epidemic, that’s how many calories
we have to reduce. OK, so which calories
should we cut? That’s just how many calories the
majority of Americans who fail to meet the Dietary Guidelines sugar limit
get in added sugars every day.

25 teaspoons are about 400 calories. Even the most die-hard sugar
defenders, like James Rippe, who was reportedly paid $40,000 a month
by the high fructose corn syrup industry, on top of the $10 million
they paid for his research, even Dr. Rippe considers it indisputable
that sugars contribute to obesity. It is also indisputable
that sugar reduction should be part of any
weight loss program. And of all sources
of calories to limit— since sugar is just empty calories,
contains no essential nutrients— reducing sugar consumption
is the place to start. And again, this is what
the researchers funded by the likes of Dr.

and Coca-Cola is saying. The primary author, Richard Kahn,
is infamous for his defense of the American Beverage
Association, the soda industry. He was chief science officer at
the American Diabetes Association when they signed a million-dollar
the sponsorship deal with the world’s largest
candy company. Maybe the American Diabetes
The association should rename itself the American Junk Food Association. But what do you expect
from an organization that was started with
drug industry funding? The bottom line is that randomized,
controlled trials show that increasing sugars intake increases calorie intake,
and this leads to body weight gain in adults, and sugar reduction leads
to body weight loss in children. For example, when researchers
randomize individuals to either increase their intake of table
sugar or decrease their intake, the added sugar group gained about
3.5 pounds over 10 weeks, whereas the reduced sugar
the group lost about 2.5 pounds. A systematic review and meta-analysis
of all such “ad libitum diet” studies (meaning real-life studies where
sugar levels were changed but people could otherwise
eat whatever they wanted) reduced intake of dietary sugars resulted
in a decrease in body weight, whereas increased sugars intake resulted
in a comparable increase in weight.

The researchers conclude that
considering the rapid weight gain that occurs after an
increased intake of sugars, it seems reasonable to
advise people to cut down. Findings from observational studies
have been more ambiguous though with an association found between
obesity and sweetened beverage intake, but failing to show consistent
correlations with sugary foods. Most such studies rely on
self-reported data, however, and obese people tend to
under-report sugar-rich foods. One can measure trace sucrose
levels in the urine, however, to not only get an objective measure
of actual sugar intake, but to exclude contributions from other sweeteners
such as high fructose corn syrup. When researchers have done this, they
discovered that sugar intake is indeed not only associated with greater odds of
obesity and greater waist circumference on a snapshot-in-time
cross-sectional basis, but in a prospective
cohort study over time.

Using urinary sucrose as
a measure of sucrose intake, those in the highest versus the
lowest fifth for sucrose intake had more than a 50% greater
risk of being overweight or obese. Denying evidence that sugars are
harmful to health has been at the heart of the
sugar industry’s defense. But when the evidence is undeniable,
like the link between sugar and cavities, they switch from
denial to deflection, like trying to switch attention
from restricting intake to coming up with some kind
of a vaccine against tooth decay. We seem to have reached
a similar point with obesity, with the likes of the Sugar Bureau
switching from denial to deflection by commissioning research
suggesting obese individuals would not benefit
from losing weight, a stance that contradicted
by hundreds of studies across four continents involving
more than ten million participants…

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