New Study Shows Added Sugars Are Equal When It Comes to Counting Calories
By moderating our consumption of added sweeteners, we can reduce the amount of calories we consume. That’s common sense. But common sense doesn’t always win out when dealing with an emotionally charged issue such as obesity or when we ourselves are undertaking a lifestyle change to reduce weight and get healthier. Common sense approaches can get muddled by misinformation – like the myth that high fructose corn syrup makes you gain more weight than sucrose (a myth that was fueled by a flawed study out of Princeton). Understanding that there isn’t a magic bullet is just as, or even more, important so we can get back to common sense approaches to weight management, focusing on the whole diet and a healthy lifestyle.
A new study published in Nutrition Journal this week bears the enticing message:
If you are trying to lose weight, reduce your caloric intake, exercise and don’t stress about what type of added sweeteners are in the foods and beverages you consume.
Well, that’s really simplifying the message, but it is the essence of what we learned from this study. The authors concluded, “Similar decreases in weight and indices of adiposity are observed when overweight or obese individuals are fed hypocaloric diets containing levels of sucrose or high fructose corn syrup typically consumed by adults in the United States.”
This study doesn’t provide a magic bullet to solving the obesity epidemic. It confirms that the sage advice to watch your calories, eat a balanced diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight holds true. So what was the purpose of this research and why does it even matter?
Research on added sweeteners and their potential health risks have frequently been based on methodologies that look at extreme levels of fructose compared to glucose. While isolating a particular component of the diet does help understand potential issues that we need to look out for, the results of these types of studies rarely can be applied or turned into practical advice for those of us who aren’t on lab diets. We eat a variety of foods everyday that include both fructose and glucose, but not alone or in isolation.
There have been a number of studies that put the spotlight on fructose in the diet, suggesting that the addition of high fructose corn syrup to our diets may be responsible for elevated risks for heart disease, metabolic syndrome and other health ailments compared with sucrose. But one thing that the studies usually end with or caution is that more research is needed, or that research on humans is needed, or that longer trials and stronger methodologies are needed.
This recent study, led by James Rippe, MD, of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute, was a 12 week, randomized, double blind human trial that looked at impact of sucrose and high fructose corn syrup consumption on weight loss. There were 247 participants between the ages of 25 and 60 – all overweight or obese.
As the authors of the study noted, “To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study to examine the effects of added sugars on overweight or obese individuals attempting to lose weight when sugars are consumed at levels typical of the adult population in the context of hypocaloric, energy restricted diets and modest levels of physical activities.”
The key here is “when sugars are consumed at levels typical of the adult population.” So now we have peer-reviewed research on humans consuming real-world diets. The conclusion of the research may not grab any headlines, but it is significant in that it responds to the needs of so many other researchers looking for a way to fill the knowledge gap. It validates the findings of respected professional groups including the American Medical Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) that sugar and high fructose corn syrup are equivalent, both nutritionally and metabolically.