Drop the Sugar to Drop the Pounds

Reducing sugar in diets linked to small decrease in overall body weight

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The person who finds a silver bullet for weight loss will make mountains of silver himself. Until then, researchers will continue to look for evidence related to effective weight loss.

In a recent review of the research, a group of researchers found more evidence that reducing sugar could be a key part to losing weight.

In reviewing more than 60 studies, they found a small drop in weight linked to a drop in sugar intake.

"Reduce sugar in your diet."

The study, led by Lisa Te Morenga, a research fellow in the Department of Human Nutrition and Medicine at the University of Otago in New Zealand, reviewed the research literature on sugar and body weight.

The researchers looked for all studies involve sugar intake and at least one measure of body fat. The sugar intake could be total sugars, specific sugars, sugar-containing food or sugar-containing drinks.

The studies needed to be at least two weeks long if they were trials and one year if they were comparing two groups without an intervention.

Out of 7,895 trials, they selected 30 that met the criteria. Out of 9,445 studies comparing groups, 38 met the criteria.

In analyzing all the trials of adults who did not strictly control how much they ate, simply reducing the amount of sugar they consumed was linked to about 1.8 pounds of weight lost.

Increasing sugar intake without any other diet changes led to an increase of 1.7 pounds. Adults who replaced their sugar intake with other non-sugar carbohydrates of equal calories showed no change in body weight.

Among trials with children, the participants did not always follow the instructions to reduce how much sugar they ate. Consequently, there was no overall change in body weight in those trials even though they included recommendations to reduce kids' sugar intake.

Meanwhile, some trials tracked children who drank sugar-sweetened beverages. In these, kids were 55 percent more likely to be overweight or obese if they drank the most sugary drinks, compared to those drinking the least amount.

There were significant differences between these 68 overall trials, and some may contain different types of scientific bias, the researchers noted.

However, even when the researchers accounted for these differences, the bottom line was that more sugar was still linked to more weight and vice versa.

The researchers noted that the body weight change appears to do with changes in calorie intake, though they did compare sugar calories with other carbohydrate calories. They did not compare sugar calories to replacement with protein or fat calories.

The authors were also unable to say how much long-term reduction of sugar might make a difference on weight. The effect seen in these studies was small, and very few of the studies lasted longer than 10 weeks.

But they noted that it's reasonable to say that reducing sugar is worthwhile in attempting to lose weight.

"However, 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 authors wrote.

The study was published January 15 in the journal BMJ. The research was funded by the University of Otago and the Riddet Institute, a New Zealand National Center of Research. The authors had no conflicts of interest to declare.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 13, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013