Is Sugar Responsible For Obesity?

Sugars2The following graphs are from:

Challenging the Fructose Hypothesis: New Perspectives on Fructose Consumption and Metabolism, American Society for Nutrition, March 2013

The paper is not objective, but I found the data compelling.

Figure 1 shows that consumption of America’s top 2 sweeteners have either remained constant or dropped off as obesity rates continued to climb.

Figure 1
Historical trends in sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) consumption (availability) versus rates of obesity in adults. After significant gain in market share at the expense of sucrose, HFCS consumption has been decreasing since 1999 and there is no correlation with obesity. From USDA Economic Research Service per capita consumption data, adjusted for loss and WHO Global Database on BMI.

ASNConsumptionDataAndObesity2013_2

Figure 1 may be misleading, because if you add refined sugar and HFCS, along with other caloric sweeteners, there is a trend that aligns with obesity,* at least to about the year 2000.

ASNConsumptionDataAndObesity2013_3

So, what happened in 2000 that might have contributed to increasing obesity rates, if it wasn’t sugar? Look at the blue line in the graph below.

Figure 2
Commodity group energy intakes, 1970–2010. Added sugars contribution to the 449 kcal/d increase in per capita energy intake over this period was small in comparison with flour-cereal products and added fats, accounting for less than 8% of the increase. Added sugars intake has been decreasing since 1999. From USDA Economic Research Service average daily per capita energy from the U.S. food availability, adjusted for loss.

ASNConsumptionDataAndObesity2013

I don’t think sugar is “toxic” as Gary Taubes claims, or a “poison” as Robert Lustig claims. Sugar is a carbohydrate; humans have evolved to eat carbohydrates.

I do think that “foods” that have been isolated, processed, and added to products in amounts not seen in nature can be detrimental. I feel this way about fats and proteins too. (And about supplements.) It’s not good to eat a salad swimming in oil, or to add protein powder to a smoothie, just as it is not good to consume a beverage with 20 spoonfuls of sugar.

* It’s important to note that this trend occurs against the backdrop of a high-fat diet.  You have to look at the whole diet.  Diets high in both fat and refined carbohydrates, including sugar, contribute not just to weight gain (“Wate-On” and “Ensure” and, of course, Wate-On’s Competition) but to increased risks for chronic diseases, notably diabetes and heart disease. Cubans lost weight and lowered their rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer by eating a diet of primarily rice and sugar, with very little fat, just 13%!

One thought on “Is Sugar Responsible For Obesity?

  1. Bix Post author

    If governments are taxing sweetened beverages because they contribute to obesity, and that’s the only reason, then they should be taxing refined carbohydrates to which fats have been added. Because sure-as-shootin’ highly-processed, highly-sweetened, high-fat foods contribute to obesity.

    Reply

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