Is Sugar the Sole Cause of Obesity and Disease?by Garth Davis, MD on June 02, 2016
I get so frustrated with the huge outcry against sugar.
My concern is not because sugar is somehow good for you; processed sugar is certainly not part of my prescribed diet. My issue comes with the fact that sugar has become the scapegoat for all our ills. The people who promote this half-truth generally follow up by telling us that animal foods are no problem at all.
Problem is that the research does not support the idea that sugar is the sole cause of obesity and western disease. In fact, the data is very weak. There are certainly articles that draw correlation between sugar and obesity but most of the time the people eating high sugar are also living unhealthy lifestyles that are difficult to control for.
Sugar has been associated with heart disease, but when you start controlling for other lifestyle problems, the correlation diminishes. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22412070
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown that sugar consumption does not increase inflammation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20067961,http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16087988
And increased sugar intake has not necessarily shown a correlation with diabetes. In fact, in the very large EPIC study, glucose consumption was INVERSELY proportional to diabetes. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23880355
Now comes the latest study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They did a large meta-analysis of studies looking at obesity and confectionery consumption. They expected to find that confectionery consumption was associated with weight gain but, as you can see in the picture below, just about every study showed the opposite.
Confectionary consumption showed LESS risk of obesity. Why is this?
Well, there can be several reasons, and they may boil down to population-based dietary habits. The studies are also cross-sectional and therefore not the best. But it is fascinating that something as simple as sugar=obesity may not in fact be that easy to prove.
Now don’t go out a run to the candy store. Sugar sweetened drinks and confectionaries are increased calories and increased calories cause weight gain. In one review study sugar was associated with weight gain but only because people consumed more calories, NOT because of sugar in and of itself.
They also are usually accompanied by fat and chemicals and have absolutely NO nutritional value.
My point is, eat lots of fruits and veggies. It kills me that the sugar fear has lead people to abandon fruit. And the sugar scare, while warranted, shouldn’t make people comfortable with their hamburgers.