Now Playing: How sugar, and the diet of the ‘fat baby,’ are putting more weight on the belly.
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Now the first major study in the history of the world has determined that sugar, refined carbohydrates and fat are the major causes of the obesity epidemic that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide in the last three decades.
The research is the largest ever done of its kind and it will be published on Friday by the journal Obesity.
The report was conducted by scientists at Yale University, Harvard University and Imperial College London and was presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Nutrition in San Diego.
It concludes that obesity is a major public health problem.
“We know that eating more sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease,” said study co-author Dr. David Ludwig, associate professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine.
“This finding has important implications for public health efforts to reduce obesity and related risk factors, as well as for people who want to quit or reduce the amount of calories they eat.”
The researchers focused on a group of healthy people who had no history of obesity and were taking medication for diabetes, hypertension and other metabolic conditions.
They were followed for 10 years to see whether their weight dropped.
After that, they did a diet and physical activity program, and then were followed again for 10 more years to measure changes in body composition.
They found that people with a low intake of sugars, carbohydrates, and fat, who consumed more than 1,200 calories per day, had a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome than those with a higher intake.
“The results indicate that sugars and fat contribute to increased weight gain and obesity and the risk for metabolic syndrome is higher among people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity,” said Dr. Ludwig.
“These results are consistent with those from previous studies and suggest that the diet and exercise programs should be included in the diet recommendations for people with obesity.”
It’s important to note that the results of this study do not mean that sugar is the cause of obesity.
There are many other possible factors, including genetics, the timing of when people eat, the quality of the diet, the availability of certain foods, the amount and type of exercise and the use of supplements, the authors say.
However, this is the first study to show that the weight gain associated with sugar consumption is a result of the excess calories.
“Our findings do not support the notion that sugar increases weight gain by itself,” said lead author Dr. Andrew B. Katz, assistant professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Yale School.
“However, the increased risk of weight gain in people with metabolic syndrome may be due to the excess sugar consumption that is associated with metabolic disease.”
“If people with these conditions are overweight, we need to consider that as a potential contributor to their weight gain,” said co-lead author Dr, Janna B. Koechlin, a professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School.
The study has some limitations, including the small sample size of the study.
But the researchers say that the findings do provide important insights into how the human body processes sugar and other foods and that the potential role of sugar in the obesity pandemic needs to be investigated further.
“Because of its large effect on metabolic syndrome, the sugar-sweetened beverage is a likely culprit in the epidemic,” said senior author Drs.
Katherine L. Bremner, associate dean for research in the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington, and James F. Renn, professor of surgery at Harvard Medical Center.
“Although we can’t rule out other dietary factors that may be important, the high prevalence of metabolic disease among adults in the United States and in other developed countries indicates that the sugar consumption in this population is a significant factor in the global obesity epidemic.”
“The American Heart Association recommends that people reduce the consumption of sugary drinks and snack foods,” said Robert J. Lustig, president of the Institute of Medicine, “and that the government should make it a national health policy priority to reduce the intake of sugar-containing products.”