Gimme some sugar…..or maybe don’t?

If someone knows next to nothing about nutrition, the two things they probably WOULD know are that:

  1. Vegetables are good for you
  2. Sugar is bad for you

From the research we have available, that person is probably only right about one of those points. Can you guess which one?

While it seems the mainstream media is pushing a story about sugar being the root of all evil, should we really be labelling it as a “poison”, or are we unfairly demonising that tasty combo of fructose and glucose due to dogmatic and misinformed beliefs of our favourite celebrity magazine.

Just recently we heard discussions of governments implementing sugar taxes, or sugar drinks duties, in an attempt to reduce societal sugar consumption…

But is there a scientific rationale for this legislation?

Let’s take a look.

In 1997 Surwit and colleagues investigated two calorie matched diets which manipulated the amount of sugar consumed. In one group (high-sucrose) a whopping 43% of their calories came from sugar. In the other group (low-sucrose) only 4% of their calories came from sugar. While both groups lost weight, the authors concluded that high sucrose content in the diet did not adversely affect weight loss, metabolism, plasma lipids or emotional affect.

In 2000 a trial by Saris and colleagues called the CARMEN study took a bunch of obese adults and allocated them to either a low-fat/high-sugar diet protocol, or a low-fat/high-complex carb protocol. After 6 months, there were no significant differences in weight change between the high sugar and low sugar groups.

In 2001 in a study by West and de Looy, they compared a low-sugar diet (less than 5% of calories coming from sugar) to a sugar-containing diet (10% of calories coming from sugar) to see if weight loss was dependent on the amount of sugar in the diet. After 8 weeks weight loss in the low-sugar group was 2.2 kg, and 3.0 kg in the sugar-containing group.

Just recently in a review paper published in February this year, authors examined whether there was a unique characteristic of sugar that could be promoting weight gain and diet-related diseases, or whether it was simply the energy content of the sugar itself. Here’s what the authors concluded…”dietary sugars are only associated with an increase in obesity when consumed as an excess source of calories and with that an increase in the risk of diet-related diseases…current scientific evidence does not support the conclusion that dietary sugar per se are detrimental to human health.”

We’ve heard that sugar is an addictive, disease-causing, obesity-promoting poison, but the reality is that none of the claims hold up upon examination of the evidence. Don’t believe everything you hear on A Current Affair or in Women’s Weekly. We don’t get fat (or insulin resistance, cancer or CVD for that matter) from sugar, we get it from a chronic overfeeding of calories. Sure, there may be some reasons to limit sugar intake. For example, we know that high sucrose diets are correlated with tooth decay. We also know that sugar scores very low on the satiety index, so having a large proportion of calories coming from sugar may cause hunger levels to become difficult to manage and threaten dietary adherence. We also know people are more likely to overeat on sucrose-containing highly-palatable foods. This is not because of sugar per se, it’s because they taste good. So, limiting intake of sugar-dense food items may also allow easier compliance. 

However, when sugar is consumed within a calorically controlled diet and protein and fibre needs are met, there is no reason to be salty. A bit of sugar is sweet, no pun intended.

Our recommendations are to keep your daily sugar intake from highly refined and processed foods to around 20% of your total carbohydrate intake. Natural sugars found in milk, fruits and other wholesome produce, don’t worry about monitoring sugar from these sources. Instead, focus more on controlling your total daily calorie and protein intake, hit the iron with vigour and might and don’t be a couch potato.

Yours sincerely,

Triple P
(The People Punching Peacock)






author: Jackson Peos

Jackson is a competitive bodybuilder, online physique coach and self proclaimed prolific consumer of sushi. He currently works at the School of Human Sciences, University of Western Australia where he has completed a BSc (Hons) in Sports Science, Exercise & Health. Jackson is also completing his PhD in Exercise Physiology where he is directing the first randomised controlled trial investigating the effects of intermittent vs continuous dieting on fat loss, muscle retention and muscle performance in resistance trained athletes.