Sugar Does Not Cause Weight Gain, Mood Alterations

April 29, 1996

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Healthy people can lose weight on a high-sugar, low-fat diet without experiencing mood changes or adverse health effects as long as they reduce their total caloric intake, according to a study at Duke University Medical Center.

The findings contradict the commonly held belief that sugar contributes to a host of health maladies, including obesity, elevated triglycerides, hyperactivity, depression and premenstrual syndrome, said Dr. Richard Surwit, professor and vice chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Surwit prepared the team's findings for presentation at the Fourth International Congress of Behavioral Medicine, which combines the annual meetings of the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research.

"Sugar has an undeserved bad reputation," Surwit said. "This may be due, in part, to the fact that sugar is often used in combination with other ingredients, such as fat, which are known to have adverse health effects. Average, healthy people trying to lose weight can include sugar and sugary foods in their diet as long as they reduce their total caloric intake."

Surwit and his colleagues examined the effects of sugar in humans following two animal studies that dispelled negative stereotypes about sugar. The first study, published in the May 1995 issue of Metabolism, found that sugar had no effect on weight gain or location and size of fat deposits in mice. The second study, soon to appear in Physiology and Behavior, found that sugar had no effect on hyperactivity or behavior. Both studies were funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Surwit said the present study in humans, funded by the Sugar Association, validated the animal studies and provided additional data on how sugar is metabolized; specifically, that the body seems to process simple carbohydrates (sugar) and complex carbohydrates (starches) in much the same manner.

"The public perception is that high-sugar foods, like hard candies, are more readily converted to fat than low-sugar foods, like grains. But our study showed that the body does not differentiate between simple and complex carbohydrates, unless you are diabetic," Surwit said. "Once sugar reaches the gut, the stomach's enzymes break it down in the same manner as they break down complex carbohydrates, such as pasta and grains.

Surwit said the major benefit of complex carbohydrates is that you can consume a larger volume of food without adding more calories. In other words, when a dieter chooses a 150-calorie snack, there is no difference between two slices of bread or one cup of sugar-sweetened cherry gelatin.
Concern about the health effects of sugar has increased in recent years because popular, low-fat foods often contain a high percentage of calories from sugars, according to the researchers.

In the Duke study, 42 women consumed identical low-fat, low-calorie diets except one diet was high in sugar (simple carbohydrates) and one was high in starches (complex carbohydrates). The two groups showed no difference in weight loss, mood, concentration levels or hunger. Both groups exhibited an equal decrease in blood pressure, percentage of body fat, resting energy expenditure, stress hormone levels, thyroid hormones and plasma lipids.

"The hypothetical effects of sugar on behavior never occurred," said Surwit. "No one became depressed, no one became hyperactive; furthermore, weight loss was the same and all other metabolic effects were the same."

Women on the high-sucrose diet consumed 43 percent of calories from sugar, whereas women on the high-carbohydrate diet consumed asparatame sweetener in place of sugar. The average American diet consists of 15 percent to 20 percent sugars, said Surwit.

Duke University Medical Center

Related Weight Loss Articles from Brightsurf:

Weight loss shouldn't be the goal of PE
For adults, the goal of exercise is often to shed some pounds, but new research from the University of Georgia suggests the objective should be different for kids.

How long should you fast for weight loss?
Two daily fasting diets, also known as time-restricted feeding diets, are effective for weight loss, according to a new study.

Green tea may help with weight loss efforts
In an analysis published in Phytotherapy Research of randomized controlled trials, individuals who consumed green tea experienced a significant decline in body weight and body mass index.

Changing weight-loss strategies, attempts
The proportion of adults who tried to lose weight in the previous year increased from 1999 to 2016 but the findings of this observational study suggest the results may have been unsatisfactory.

Quality of life changes after weight loss
Obesity increases a number of adverse health consequences including reduced health-related quality of life.

Weight loss medicines underutilized by veterans
Despite the availability of new weight management medications and several clinical guidelines recommending their use as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for obesity, a new study has found that their use is extremely low (about one percent) among eligible Veterans.

Is the most effective weight-loss strategy really that hard?
Dietary self-monitoring is the best predictor of weight-loss success. But the practice is viewed as so unpleasant and time-consuming, many would-be weight-losers won't adopt it.

Study: Faster weight loss no better than slow weight loss for health benefits
Losing weight slowly or quickly won't tip the scale in your favor when it comes to overall health, according to new research.

Mindfulness training may help support weight loss
Mindfulness training may improve the effectiveness of intensive weight management programs, according to a small study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Does weight loss before surgery provide benefits?
For obese and overweight patients, it is common for various surgical procedures to be deferred until they have lost weight through diet and exercise.

Read More: Weight Loss News and Weight Loss Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to