Does Sugar Make You Fat?
Today we are going to talk about sugar! In particular the effects of sugar consumption and whether that consumption makes you fat
This is probably the most common question that I get on a weekly basis.
But before we get into the topic of this podcast, I want to encourage you all to keep an open mind to learning versus being emotional as to what your beliefs are.
Let’s preface today’s discussion by noting that obesity is extremely complicated and I think giving one nutrient such as sugar all the credit to being the #1 culprit to such a complex matter is ridiculous.
There are so many factors to consider when it comes to obesity. But for today, let’s just discuss the effects of sugar consumption
There have been studies that have been found as early as 2003 to show a strong correlation between obesity increasing with higher sugar diets. What a lot of people don’t realize with these studies is that they are what is referred to as correlation studies. Correlational research is a type of non-experimental research method, in which a researcher measures two variables, understands and assess the statistical relationship between them with no influence from any extraneous variable
Meaning that if you were to look at the data on a graph, both body fat and sugar intake would be moving up the y axis over time in the same direction. But just because sugar intake and obesity are both increasing, doesn’t mean that one causes the other
These studies showing this relationship between sugar and obesity wouldn’t be considered to be as relevant if they were causation studies.
Causalresearch, also called explanatory research, is the investigation of (research into) cause-and-effect relationships
It’s important to note that correlation doesn’t equal causation. Meaning just because fat gain and high sugar consumption are correlated, doesn’t mean there is causation. Eating sugar doesn’t cause fat gain. Just like eating ice cream doesn’t cause you to become a murderer. There has been a correlation study to show an increase ice cream sales is correlated to an increase in murder rates. There’s actually been a correlation study to show this... I didn’t just make that up. But how ridiculous does that sound? Can you imagine not enjoying ice cream on a hot summer day because you are too afraid it’s going to cause you to become a murderer? Sounds a little ridiculous when you say it out loud, right? The same holds true when you let the fear of gaining fat stop you from enjoying a treat here and there because it contains sugar
So why is obesity going up then if you consume more sugar?
Well there are some satiety concerns when you consume sugar.
Sugar’s effect on your body composition depends on if you stick to your total calories every day or if you simply eat until you are full.
If you eat until you are full and consume a lot of sugar in your diet, you are putting yourself at risk of overeating.
Why? Well because of how low sugar is ranked on the satiety index. There are problems with high sugar diets because the diet tends to be lower in fiber, therefore you don't feel as full and it lend to excess caloric consumption
What a lot of these studies failed to do was control calories. There have been subsequent studies done that had two groups consuming the same amount of calories, with one group consuming low sugar and the other group was consuming what is a. high sugar diet. The study actually showed zero fat gain in both groups. So regardless of the sugar intake, both groups saw no difference in fat gain when controlling their calories
During my first bikini competition, I wanted to do an experiment for myself to see my sugar consumption compared to my fat loss. Over a 20 week period I lost 13 lbs. I consumed on average 50g of sugar a day and 20g of fibre a day (which is an adequate amount for the amount of calories i was consuming). The highest amount of sugar I consumed in a day was 100g and the lowest was 16g. My calories were being reduced each month, I was controlling my calories every day, I was consuming an adeqaute amount of fiber, my average daily sugar intake was 50g and I lost weight.
Definitely a clear indicator here that sugar itself is not a direct culprit of fat gain.
In fact, there were obesity vs sugar intake stats released, that showed that sugar intake in Americans were going down due to the increase in artificial sweeteners and zero sugar products BUT obesity rates were still climbing.
Another indicator here that sugar is not a direct culprit of fat gain.
Ok I know... we all have that friend who cut out cokes from their diet and that dropped like 50lbs! It wasn’t the elimination of sugar that caused the impressive drop in fat, rather the reduction in overall calories consumed.
So does sugar make you fat? No. Correlation does not equal causation. Overconsumption of calories makes you fat.
Sugar isn’t bad. Nor is it good. But if your overall diet is very nutritious, you are healthy, physically active and you are tracking your macros, sugar won’t make your abs fade.
We need to stop demonizing sugar and be honest with ourselves and whether we are holding ourselves accountable to the total amount of food we should be consuming in a day. I’m not saying to go out there and eat all the sugar in the world.
Focus on consuming a variety of foods to hit your protein/carb/fat goals each day, consume 2-3 servings or fruit and veggies, and ensure you are getting an adequate amount of fibre and if sugar is part of that, there is NOTHING wrong with that. it’s all about balance
I too used to fear sugar and it honestly controlled my life and made me feel extremely stressed out constantly because well.. there is literally sugar in almost everything! This fear and added stress alone was doing more damage than sugar ever could of and I can’t tell you how much letting go of this fear of sugar consumption has completely repaired my relationship with food. From someone who tracked every gram of sugar and wouldn’t dare consume more than 15g a day and not very happy with my physique to someone who couldn’t even tell you the amount of grams of sugar consumption I have everyday and my relationship with food and my body image have never been better! Trust me, the fear of sugar is not worth stressing over
I know today’s topic was a loaded gun with maybe a few minds blown. So if you have any questions, concerns or would like anything clarified, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org I would be more than happy to discuss any questions you have regarding sugar. If you are still skeptical, I encourage you to challenge yourself and try to figure out to why you are fearful of sugar consumption. Where does this fear stem from? Was it how you were brought up? Was it an episode of dr oz? Was it from family and friends? Or maybe you just don’t know?
Because unless there is some scientific research to suggest that sugar is bad for you, you have nothing to be afraid of my friend. But don’t just take my word for it, do some research of your own and question everything before just believing what others are saying.
The research is in our favour that we have nothing to be afraid of. So again, I’ll reiterate Focus on consuming a variety of foods to hit your protein/carb/fat goals each day, consume 2-3 servings or fruit and veggies, and ensure you are getting an adequate amount of fibre and if sugar is part of that, there is NOTHING wrong with that. it’s all about balance
And please listen to this podcast again and do your own research!
Hope this was helpful!
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West, J. A., & De Looy, A. E. (2001). Weight loss in overweight subjects following low-sucrose or sucrose-containing diets. International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders, 25(8).
Saris, W. H., Astrup, A., Prentice, A. M., Zunft, H. J., Formiguera, X., Verboeket-van de Venne, W. P. H. G., ... & Vasilaras, T. H. (2000). Randomized controlled trial of changes in dietary carbohydrate/fat ratio and simple vs complex carbohydrates on body weight and blood lipids: the CARMEN study. International Journal of Obesity, 24(10), 1310-1318.
Aller, E. E., Larsen, T. M., Claus, H., Lindroos, A. K., Kafatos, A., Pfeiffer, A., ... & Saris, W. H. M. (2014). Weight loss maintenance in overweight subjects on ad libitum diets with high or low protein content and glycemic index: the DIOGENES trial 12-month results. International Journal of Obesity, 38(12), 1511-1517.