Sickly Sweet

By Kate Hassett

Sickly Sweet
Can cutting sugar from your diet improve your health in just nine days?

New study finds significant link between sugar reduction and health improvement – in as little as nine days.

Published earlier this week in the journal Obesity, the study focussed on the effects of sugar in diets of obese children.

The study substituted the sugar intake of 43 obese children with starch in the aim of providing information relating to the impact sugar has on a child’s calorie intake, and also the strain it places on the body’s metabolism.

Dr Robert Lustig, paediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, said the findings pointed to a significant improvement in cholesterol levels and as well as a reduction in insulin levels.

“Everything got better,” Dr Lustig claimed. “These findings support the idea that it is essential for parents to evaluate sugar intake and to be mindful of the health effects of what their children are consuming.”

The findings come just weeks after British PM David Cameron rejected calls for a ‘Sugar Tax’ to be implemented in the UK – a cause taken up by Chef Jamie Oliver. 

The researchers found that by just removing sugar from the children’s diets, the symptoms associated with  metabolic syndrome – such as a heightened risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, were drastically reduced.

The syndrome, which causes spikes in blood glucose levels, excess body fat and higher cholesterol levels, was evident in nearly all of the children who participated in the study.

Over nine days, 43 children aged nine to 18, followed a strict meal plan which excluded sugar, replacing it with starch.

The initial fasting blood levels, blood pressure and glucose tolerance was assessed before the new diet began.

Dr Robert Lustig said: “This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful not because of its calories or its effects on weight; rather sugar is metabolically harmful because it’s sugar.

“This internally controlled intervention study is a solid indication that sugar contributes to metabolic syndrome, and is the strongest evidence to date that the negative effects of sugar are not because of calories or obesity.”

“I have never seen results as striking or significant in our human studies,” added Senior Author, Jean-Marc Schwarz.

The consistent findings saw liver function tests improve, diastolic blood pressure decreased by 5mm, levels of triglycerides drop by 33 points and LDL-cholesterol reduced by 10 points.

“All of the surrogate measures of metabolic health got better, just by substituting starch for sugar in their processed food — all without changing calories or weight or exercise,” said Dr Lustig.

“These findings support the idea that it is essential for parents to evaluate sugar intake and to be mindful of the health effects of what their children are consuming.

“When we took the sugar out, the kids started responding to their satiety cues.

“They told us it felt like so much more food, even though they were consuming the same number of calories as before, just with significantly less sugar.

“Some said we were overwhelming them with food.”

The study aimed to prove that “a calorie is not a calorie”. Meaning that where calories come from, determines where they end up and how they operate within the body, once digested.

“Sugar calories are the worst, because they turn to fat in the liver, driving insulin resistance, and driving risk for diabetes, heart, and liver disease.

“This has enormous implications for the food industry, chronic disease, and health care costs.”

Medical professionals have called for action against the sugar industry, citing misleading information leading to poor public health – like the theory that all calories are alike.

“This study provides further evidence that all calories do not have the same metabolic effects on the body with sugar calories being particularly harmful.”

Whilst type 2 diabetes is a growing problem, everywhere from the UK to New Zealand, Dr Lustig cautions that the study is not claiming that sugar is the sole cause of metabolic disease, however “it clearly demonstrates it is a modifiable one.”




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