Weight Gain: What’s Sugar Got to Do With It?
Weight and height are used in computing body mass index, an indicator of risk for developing obesity-associated diseases. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Have you looked in the mirror lately and found a fat roll starting to protrude around your middle? Maybe you’ve spent way too many hours in what I refer to as the ‘bubble butt’ chair. I felt this way last week and yes, lately I’ve been logging way too many hours in screen time. What makes us develop the hated muffin top and potbelly anyway? Is it sugar, fructose, fat, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or maybe…overconsumption of calories and the activity level of a slug?
As my girlfriend Joye likes to remind me…”a little on the lips and you’ll see it forever on your hips” and in my case…as a muffin top. So true, isn’t it? In the past year or so, fingers have pointed directly at fructose and HFCS as the bad boys who should take the blame for our potbellies, muffin tops, weight gain, the obesity epidemic and a lot of other health issues.
And recently New York City banned sodas over the size of 16 ounces in many venues. Before that, the solution was to ban bake sales. Maybe if we shrink soda sizes and ban bake sales, our muffin tops and potbellies will deflate. What do you think? This touchy topic is firing up a heated debate.
Recent research from the Nutrition Journal investigated the effects of consuming either sugar or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as part of a reduced calorie diet. The study concluded that both sweeteners affected weight loss similarly. When it comes to weight gain or weight loss, it seems that the total calories consumed per day is what matters. In the real world, it means reminding ourselves to nix eating from the ice cream container in front of the TV or popping open a can of nuts for a snack when we come home from work.
Remember that fructose is the natural sugar found in fruit and veggies. It is also part of sugar and HFCS. Added sugars of all types can mount up to a chunk of daily calories. Whether the added sugar is from maple syrup, HFCS, sugar, honey, or agave syrup, sugar is sugar. When the body metabolizes these added sugars, they are the same and so are the calories.
In addition to curbing portion sizes for weight loss and maintenance, another smart food habit is to eat breakfast everyday. Easy, on-the-go foods such as energy bars or a cheese stick with fruit work well. Nutrition research shows that eating a healthy breakfast leads to better academic performance and cuts down on cravings later in the day. Remember, you and I have the power to take back control of the fork, reign in our calories and manage our weight.
Dr. Mitchell is a consultant, registered dietitian, nutrition expert for Growing Bolder Media, and member of the CRA RD Panel. A 20-year experienced radio and multi-media talent, Dr. Mitchell takes the science of nutrition and turns it into easy-to-follow health messages that people understand and live by. Known for her smart, sassy straight talk about food and fitness, Susan helps you navigate through the hype of conflicting nutrition information so you can enjoy great food, better health and enhanced energy. Dr. Mitchell is on the Health Advisory Board of Family Circle magazine and the Kaiser University Dietetics and Nutrition Program Advisory Board. She is also the co-author of three books— Fat is Not Your Fate, I'd Kill for a Cookie and Eat to Stay Young. Dr. Mitchell is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and earned her Ph.D. from The University of Tennessee.
Members of the RD Panel are paid consultants to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), but their statements and opinions are their own. RD Panel members provide general dietary information, but you should consult your own physician or dietitian for advice concerning your particular circumstance.