The vast amount of sugar consumed in the modern Western diet that is contained in processed foods and sweetened drinks is causing obesity and other health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. That is the current thinking. But what if this is wrong?
Results of a large study of over 132,000 people across Britain by scientists at Glasgow University suggests that sugar contributes little to expanding waistlines. This obviously goes against current thinking on the causes of being overweight.
Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study results show that overweight men and women ate 14 per cent more fat than people of normal weight.
The study found that sugar accounted for 22 per cent of their energy intake compared to 23.4 per cent of slimmer volunteers in the study.
These results go against blaming sugar for the weight crisis. If they are right, matters will get worse when the expected new health guidelines telling people to eat more fat and less sugar come in. There is also the possibility that foods containing sugar will be taxed.
What can be made of the Glasgow University study results?
The study scientists analysed the dietary habits of 132,479 men and women taking part in a research project called 'UK Biobank', a large database of medical data and tissue samples. They looked at the kinds of foods making up the daily energy intake of the volunteers.
The trouble is that the foods eaten by the overweight people included 'unhealthy' fats that are common in processed foods.
Calories from fats, sugars and proteins are not equal. Weight gain can be caused by eating metabolically harmful calories such as net carbohydrates, which is the total carbohydrates minus fiber.
The coming new health guidelines will be about consuming 'healthy' fats such as those occurring in eggs, avocados, coconuts, walnuts, and in products such as milk, cheese and butter from grass-fed cows. No doubt the diets of the overweight people in the study consisted of junk food, pizzas, processed convenience foods and the like.
The Glasgow study is a welcome addition to the obesity debate, but to draw the conclusion that all fats cause obesity, and that sugar is not to blame, is too simplistic and a possible dangerous statement.
Clearly further research ought to be done, but the current health guidelines telling people to limit saturated 'healthy' fat intake and eat lots of carbohydrates seem to be the root cause of today's obesity crisis.