Question of the day: Does sugar make you fat?
Is sugar inherently fattening compared to other carbohydrate sources? It sugar addictive?
These are some of the questions I had the honor to talk about with James Krieger at the AFPT Convention in Oslo, Norway.
James has 2 Master’s degrees, one in Nutrition and another in Exercise Science. He is the former research director for a corporate weight management program that treated over 400 people per year, with an average weight loss of 40 pounds in 3 months.
His former weight loss clients include the founder of Sylvan Learning Centers and The Little Gym, the vice president of Costco, and a former vice president of MSN.
James has given over a hundred live lectures on weight loss-related topics to physicians, dietitians, and other professionals.
Sugar intake and weight loss – Current State of Media
As you know there’s a crusade going on in the media against Sugar (and carbohydrates in general) which often leads people to think that sugar is the main cause of obesity.
And many people start to believe that calorie for calorie sugar is somehow inherently more fattening compared to other sources of energy.
Marketers and “gurus” will often make statements “sugar is addictive”, “sugar is evil”, “sugar is toxic and poisonousness”, “sugar makes you fat”, “sugar is the main cause of obesity” and none of those claims really have any evidence to support them.
Does Sugar Make You Fat? – Key points:
Sugar is not inherently fattening compared to other carbohydrate sources. You will not gain more fat with a diet high in sugar compared to a diet with lower sugar as long as calories and protein are equated.
Early data shows correlation but correlation isn’t the same as causation.
Ice-cream consumption correlates with how many people drown. Does that mean ice-cream makes people drown?
No, when it gets hot outside people will eat more ice cream. And people will swim more.
In fact, sugar consumption went down looking at the data for the last 15 years. And the obesity epidemic is spreading without any trend of slowing down.
People don’t want to face the truth. We’re eating more than ever (of all macro-nutrients) and we’re moving less and less.
This is not just related to deliberate exercise but general movement.
And another often underestimated contributor to calorie intake is alcohol consumption which is steadily increasing every ear.
There are no differences in appetite effects between different types of sugar at realistic doses.
“Sugar crashes” are a myth and Glycemic Index does not impact appetite.
Sugar does not impact energy expenditure.
Sugar is not addictive.
Added sugars may contribute to increase calorie intake and fat gain via:
– Increase energy density (overconsumption of calories)
– Enhanced palatability and reward (over-consuming calories)
– Liquid calories (sugar-sweetened beverages) don’t provide adequate satiety compared to solid foods and can again lead to overconsumption of calories.
In a nutshell there’s nothing magical about sugar that will make someone fat if the calories are kept in check.
As a general guideline if you keep an eye on your calories to make sure you’re not over-consuming and if the majority of your food intake come from whole healthy unprocessed foods there’s no need to track sugar intake.
For diet setup it’s recommended to figure out your calorie and protein intake first and then base the ratio of carbohydrate to fat on personal preference.
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Valuable resources and studies:
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