New sugar study confirms link to weight gain

By Mariam Digges

Curbing our sugar intake could be the answer to winning the obesity fight, according to a new study released by World Health Organisation (WHO).

Analysing the deeper effects of sugar on the body, the University of Otago-led study was this week published in the British Medical Journal. Lead authors and researchers from the university concurred that there is now sufficient evidence to prove that cutting down on sugar leads to a “small but significant” effect on total body weight.

The WHO have previously claimed that our intake of “free sugars” (those added to foods, and naturally present in honeys and fruit juices) should be less than 10 per cent of our total energy intake. They asked the Otago-led group to study the link between consuming free sugars, and body weight in adults and kids.

The results showed that reducing the intake of free sugars in the diet has an average reduction of 0.8kg in adults, while an increase in sugar intake contributed to an increase of 0.75kg in body weight.

However the study presented less consistent results in children, mostly attributed to poor compliance with dietary advice. But a direct link was found between children with a higher risk of sugary drinks, over those with a lower intake. 

“When considering the rapid weight gain that occurs after an increased intake of sugars, it seems reasonable to conclude that advice relating to sugars intake is a relevant component of a strategy to reduce the high risk of overweight and obesity in most countries,” the study’s lead authors concluded.

According to research fellow Dr Lisa Te Morenga from Otago’s Department of Human Nutrition, “It seems easier to overeat if your diet includes lots of sugary foods and drinks. When you overeat you gain weight.”


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