The latest issue of New Scientist features a cover story investigating the health consequences of sugar intake, a hotly debated issue in nutrition circles. A recent study from Dr Lisa Te Morenga and her colleagues from the University of Otago is highlighted in the article (you can read earlier media coverage of the research, collated by the SMC, here).
An excerpt from ‘Sugar on trial: What you really need to know‘:
Alarmed by reports of sugar’s dangers, [the WHO’s ] Nutrition Guidance Expert Advisory Group has been carrying out a review of the evidence with a view to making some recommendations.
As part of that process, last year Lisa Te Morenga, a researcher in human nutrition at the University of Otago in New Zealand, reviewed the research on the relationship between sugar and body weight. She concluded that it wasn’t necessarily eating too much sugar that was making us fat, but eating too much of everything. “There was no difference between higher and lower sugars when the energy people were consuming was exactly the same,” says Te Morenga. In other words, if total calorie count was controlled for, people didn’t get any fatter when more of those calories came from sugar. These findings, too, were welcomed by the sugar industry.
So is the white stuff off the hook? Not so fast. When Te Morenga looked at studies that more closely replicate food choices in real life – that is, when participants weren’t held to precise calorie counts – those who ate a lot of sugar tended to consume more calories overall and gained more weight. And the most important source of sugar was one that has been high on the list of obesity campaigners’ concerns for years: sugary drinks. This was yet more evidence that sweetened drinks really do cause weight gain – which is the strongest reason to point the finger at sugar.