Sugar for the Sake of Sugar
According to a study by researchers at UC San Francisco and Touro University California, reducing the consumption of added sugar can reverse a wide array of chronic metabolic diseases in just 10 days, even without reducing calories or losing weight. According to lead author Robert Lustig, this study reveals beyond a doubt that sugar is metabolically harmful due to the fact that it’s sugar, not due to calories or effect on weight. This indicates that sugar contributes to metabolic syndrome, and is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that the effects of sugar aren’t due to calories or obesity.
Metabolic syndrome is a variety of conditions, such as increased blood pressure, high blood glucose level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels, all of which occur together and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Other diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes, which were previously unknown to occur in children, are becoming more and more frequent. Participants of the study were identified through the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health Clinic (WATCH) at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, an interdisciplinary obesity clinic dedicated to targeting metabolic dysfunction as opposed to weight loss. Due to their higher risk for certain conditions linked to metabolic syndrome, recruitment was limited to African-American and Latino children between the ages of 9 and 18.
In the study, 43 obese children with at least one other chronic metabolic disorder were given nine days of food, including all snack and beverages, that restricted sugar yet substituted starch to maintain the same fat, protein, carbohydrate and calorie levels as their regular diets. Baseline fasting blood levels, blood pressure and glucose tolerance were all assessed before the new menu plan was adopted. The study menu restricted added sugar with the exception of fruit, but replaced it with such carbohydrates as bagels, cereal and pasta so that the children still consumed the same amount of calories from carbohydrates as before, although total dietary sugar was reduced from 28 to 10 percent, and fructose went from 12 to 4 percent of total calories. Food choices were selected for being “kid friendly”, such as turkey hot dogs, potato chips and pizza.
Children were given a scale and told to weigh themselves every day, with the goal of weight stability. When weight loss did occur, they were given more low-sugar foods. Interestingly enough, the children said it felt like a lot more food, even if they were eating the same number of calories as before. After just 9 days on this sugar-restricted diet, virtually every aspect of the participants’ metabolic health improved with no change in weight. Diastolic blood pressure decreased by 5mm, triglycerides by 33 points, “bad” LDL-cholesterol by 10 points and liver function tests improved. Fasting blood glucose went down by 5 points, and insulin levels were cut by one third.
If you’d like to learn more about this study, you can click here!