No Strong Evidence That Sugar Or Fructose Causes Obesity

I keep hearing that eating sugar makes you fat, primarily from the fructose it contains. And that eating high-fructose corn syrup also makes you fat. I can’t see that it does, unless it’s consumed as part of a high-fat, high-calorie, low-fiber diet. (Since that’s the American diet, maybe it does!)

This comprehensive review from researchers at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland says what my title says:

Metabolic Effects Of Fructose And The Worldwide Increase In Obesity, Physiological Reviews, January 2010

There is, however, no unequivocal evidence that fructose intake at moderate doses is directly related with adverse metabolic effects. There has also been much concern that consumption of free fructose, as provided in high fructose corn syrup, may cause more adverse effects than consumption of fructose consumed with sucrose. There is, however, no direct evidence for more serious metabolic consequences of high fructose corn syrup versus sucrose consumption.

Indeed, a high fructose consumption most of the time clusters with additional “risky” behaviors, such as a hypercaloric diet, a diet rich in saturated fat, or low physical activity. Thus which part of metabolic disorders can be attributed to fructose and which results from interactions with other risk factors?

This was interesting:

In rats, a diet high in saturated fatty acids (but not in polyunsaturated fatty acids) enhances intestinal fructose absorption.

So, if you eat a hamburger and wash it down with a Coke, you’ll likely get more fructose than if you ate French fries with the Coke.

You have to look at the whole diet. Cubans famously lost weight and lowered their rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer by eating a diet of primarily rice and sugar. They ate that diet during hard times when meat and other animal foods were not available. So, they were also cutting back on calories, fat, and protein, especially animal protein. Indeed, “Diet composition in Cuba also changed during the study period. By 1993, carbohydrate, fat, and protein contributed 77%, 13%, and 10% of total energy.” That’s a true low-fat diet. It mirrors what you get on a whole food, plant-based diet.

Related: Joslin’s Dr. Kahn: “Eating A Lot Of Sugar Definitely Does Not Cause Diabetes”

One thought on “No Strong Evidence That Sugar Or Fructose Causes Obesity

  1. Pingback: Joslin’s Dr. Kahn: “Eating A Lot Of Sugar Definitely Does Not Cause Diabetes” | Fanatic Cook

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