Fructose Not to Blame for Weight Gain
Americans have a sweet tooth, but it’s not the reason for the obesity epidemic in this country. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, added sugars contribute an average of 16 percent of the total calories in American diets and the CDC reports children and adolescents' added sugar intake, at 362 and 282 calories a day for boys and girls respectively. These numbers have many people tying obesity to added sugar. However, a recent review of previous studies revealed the truth: sugar isn’t to blame for weight gain.
The Right Amount of Carbs
The Western diet has become synonymous with overweight and obesity. Nutrition researchers from multiple universities in Canada and the US looked to fructose to find a causal effect. A review of 31 trials of diets that compared diets with non-fructose carbohydrates with those supplemented with free fructose and found there was no effect on body weight in those trials that provided similar caloric intake. While trials with high doses of fructose did create significant weight gain, these were those that provided hypercaloric or excess calories as compared to a normal diet. The review suggests counting carbs is futile if daily caloric intake is in check.
What about High Fructose Corn Syrup
The review, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, omitted studies that evaluated high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Because HFCS represents about 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods in the US, its omission should be noted. Turns out multiple studies have found high-fructose corn syrup results in excess weight gain in rats when compared to other sweeteners. One study gave rats a diet with the same amount of calories, but different amounts of HFCS and sucrose. Those on the HFCS diet gained significantly more body weight despite having consumed less calories of HFCS than sucrose. However another study on rats, compared the effects of HFCS consumption with those of agave, fructose, and the non-caloric sweetener Stevia. The sweeteners were administered in similar amounts and no difference in terminal body weights was found. However, plasmas lipid profiles were elevated in the fructose and HFCS groups.
For Your Appetite, Not Weight Loss
While these studies show cutting carbs won’t help you lose weight in the absence of calorie restriction, balancing your sugar intake will help control your appetite. You’ve heard the buzz about empty calories. The problem with added sugar consumption is that it lacks nutrients and fiber that can help you stay full longer. What’s more, generally speaking, both protein and fat grams are more satiating than added sugar. While changing your macronutrient profile to lower carbohydrates may seem like a winner, the increase in protein and fat, may be the hero in making the switch. You’ll be more satisfied with more protein and less fructose, which could lead to your eating less. What's more, drawing down foods with added sugar will help you stay within your daily caloric limits, while getting the vitamins, minerals and fiber your body needs.
Where to Cut
A breakdown of the percent of calories from total added sugars given in the diets of Americans reported by the USDA are soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks (36% of added sugar intake), grain-based desserts (13%), sugar-sweetened fruit drinks (10%), dairy-based desserts (6%), and candy (6%). Try cutting at least half of these in your diet a day and you could drop approximately 200 calories a day from your daily caloric intake.
How do you keep you sugar intake in check?