Cutting Sugar Could Mean Weight Loss, Healthier Lives in as Little as 10 Days: Study
Regulating sugar intake and controlling the diet of obese children could reduce metabolic syndrome in as few as 10 days, according to a new study. The research suggests sugar calories may be worse than other calories and "metabolically harmful," negatively impacting health and weight.
The study, which investigates blood pressure and cholesterol in obese children, was published in the journal Obesity on Monday, Oct. 26. The study found that lowering sugar intake improved the health of the children in as few as 10 days. These findings were established by restricting the participants' sugar intake and putting them on a diet to positively influence high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Within the U.S. Latino community, there's a higher prevalence of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, when compared to non-Hispanic white adults and adolescents. Also, there's a genetic predisposition to weight gain and many metabolic diseases, made worse by a higher consumption of sugary, salty and unhealthy foods. Unfortunately, unhealthy foods are frequently more affordable than healthy foods in lower income communities. Because of childhood obesity and symptoms of a poor diet, fatty liver disease, type 2 and other diseases known to older individuals are being found in young people.
The consequences of metabolic diseases are instigated by obesity, bad calories and an overall poor diet, according to the researchers. Therefore decreasing sugar and restricting sugar intake was instrumental in helping the children maintain a normal daily caloric intake and achieve loss weight. When the researchers took the sugar out of the children's diet, the children felt healthier, lost weight and felt like they were eating more food, although it was the same number of calories -- just less sugar.
"All of the surrogate measures of metabolic health got better, just by substituting starch for sugar in their processed food -- all without changing calories or weight or exercise," said Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco, in a press release.
"This study demonstrates that 'a calorie is not a calorie.' Where those calories come from determines where in the body they go. Sugar calories are the worst, because they turn to fat in the liver, driving insulin resistance, and driving risk for diabetes, heart, and liver disease. This has enormous implications for the food industry, chronic disease, and health care costs."
The University of California San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital was the site of the experiment, where 44 children between the age nine and 18 were surveyed. A combination of Hispanic and black children, they were asked to follow a special diet. On average, their fructose was decreased from 12 percent to 4 percent and their sugar intake was reduced from 28 percent to 10 percent. However, they maintained their regular intake of fat, protein and carbohydrates. Bagels and other starches replaced sugar, with the exception of fruit. Also, they were allowed to enjoy pizza and other foods deemed "kid's foods."
Throughout the nine-day study, the children weighed themselves. Following the change to their diet, the researchers reported a reduction in insulin levels, fasting glucose, blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and they saw improved liver function. Additionally, the children reportedly lost 1 percent of their body weight, despite researchers increasing caloric intake to maintain weight during the study.
The study supports the understanding that parents ought to be mindful of the health effects of sugar. The research strengthens existing evidence that documents the relationship between sugar intake and metabolic disease, and by reducing the consumption of artificial sugars in high risk populations, they demonstrate there are metabolic benefits to ingesting fewer sugary calories.
While researchers insist changes in sugar intake solely contributed to changes, not everyone is convinced. Due to the nature of the study, other experts believe it's impossible for the study's researchers to know if other possible diet or lifestyle changes did or didn't help to encourage positive changes in health. The study wasn't a randomized experiment, and there was no control group. Also, more than 75 percent of the children indicated they were unable to completely consume the food given to them to help them maintain their weight, and there are other flaws in the study's design.
Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at Glasgow University, told the Guardian he wasn't convinced by the results of the study. Apparently, "when people are losing weight, even if modest, their metabolic changes can seem larger than they actually are -- one needs to see results once folk return to their habitual state after they've finished losing weight. Overall, this study is of modest interest but is far from convincing."
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