sugar cube half hidden useen added sugar

Consumption of Added Sugar Doubles Fat Production

By the wlr team

Key Takeaway

  • The sugar we most commonly consume, sucrose, boosts fat synthesis

Sugar is added to many common foodstuffs, savoury as well as sweet.

The high calorie content of sugar causes excessive weight and obesity, and the associated diseases.

But does too much sugar have any other harmful effects if consumed regularly? And if so, which sugars in particular?

Even moderate amounts of sugar increase fat synthesis.

Researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) and the University Hospital Zurich (USZ) have been investigating these questions.

Compared to previous studies, which mainly examined the consumption of very high amounts of sugar, their results show that even moderate amounts lead to a change in the metabolism of test participants.

"Eighty grams of sugar daily, which is equivalent to about 0.8 litres of a normal soft drink, boosts fat production in the liver. And the overactive fat production continues for a longer period of time, even if no more sugar is consumed," said study leader Philipp Gerber.

The Study

Ninety-four healthy young men took part in the study.

Every day for a period of seven weeks, they consumed a drink sweetened with different types of sugar, while the control group did not.

The drinks contained either fructose, glucose or sucrose (table sugar which is a combination of fructose and glucose).

The researchers then analysed the effect of the sugary drinks on the lipid metabolism.

The Results

  • Fructose and sucrose double fat production beyond food intake

Overall, the participants did not consume more calories than before the study, as the sugary drink increased satiety and they therefore reduced their calorie intake from other sources.

Nevertheless, the researchers observed that fructose has a negative effect:

"The body's own fat production in the liver was twice as high in the fructose group as in the glucose group or the control group - and this was still the case more than twelve hours after the last meal or sugar consumption," says Gerber.

Particularly surprising was that the sugar we most commonly consume, sucrose, boosted fat synthesis slightly more than the same amount of fructose. Until now, it was thought that fructose was most likely to cause such changes.

  • Development of fatty liver or diabetes more likely

Increased fat production in the liver is a significant first step in the development of common diseases such as fatty liver and type-2 diabetes.

From a health perspective, the World Health Organization recommends limiting daily sugar consumption to around 50 grams or, even better, 25 grams.

"But we are far off that mark in Switzerland," says Philipp Gerber. "Our results are a critical step in researching the harmful effects of added sugars and will be very significant for future dietary recommendations."

What you can do About Sugar

Much of the sugar we consume comes from processed food where it is used to make foods more palatable.

Some are obvious like cakes, biscuits and sugary drinks but you may be surprised at just how much sugar shows up in foods that you don't assocaciate with sweetness. Especially things like sauces, dressings, soups and ready meals.

The best thing to do is check food labels, most are now highlighted if they are high in sugar. The following articles will help you conquer the sugar mountain:   

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17 Easy Ways to Cut Sugar (and lose weight)

Sugar is really not your friend if you're trying to lose weight, or even if you just want to have a healthy diet, see how to cut down on sugar

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What's the Problem with Sugar?

11 research backed reasons why you may want to cut down on sugar, see why to cut the sugar

How Healthy Is Your Diet?

If you'd like to have a closer look and see how healthy your diet is, have a look at the tools and databases in wlr. You can check if your diet is balanced, how many calories you eat (and how many you need!), track how many servings of fruit and veg you eat in a day, and look up the calorie, protein, carbohydrate, sugar, fat and fibre content of UK foods. Try it free.

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