Recent studies show that a low sugar diet benefits your heatlh in as little as one week. I wrote earlier about how Coca-Cola and General Mills foods were running campaigns that were designed to convince us that it’s all about energy balance. They would like us to believe that daily consumption of sugary drinks and sugar coated cereals can be part of a healthy diet, as long as you exercise.

Well, the evidence is in and the evidence says it’s NOT just about energy balance. The new study shows a direct cause and effect relationship between sugar and metabolic disease.

Sugar Drives Obesity

We have suspected for some time that sugar is one of the main drivers of the obesity epidemic and diseases like type 2 diabetes. It’s a hard thing to verify but this new study goes a long way to proving the point.

43 kids with obesity and metabolic syndrome reduced their sugar intake for just 10 days in the study. To isolate the effect of sugar, they consumed the same amount of calories as they did before the study. The low sugar diet improved all health markers related to metabolic syndrome.

The Low Sugar Diet

Scientists removed foods with added sugar from the children’s diet and replaced them with other types of carbohydrates. The idea was to keep the overall calorie intake the same but reduce sugar intake.

Total added sugars were reduced from 28 percent to 10 percent of total daily calories in accordance with the recommendation from the World Health Organization. The results were impressive; all children in the study showed dramatic improvements in only 10 days.

There was an improvement in nearly all factors connected to metabolic syndrome. The participants had better blood pressure, lower blood sugar and much lower insulin levels across the board. All these benefits came about by reducing sugar alone for 10 days. Calorie intake was not changed.

Too Much Added Sugar

It’s unfortunate, but most manufactured foods today contain added sugars. A study published in 2012 found that 74 percent of the 600,000 items on grocery store shelves contained added sugars. The American Heart Association reported that Americans consume an average of 385 calories or 23 teaspoons of added sugar daily. That’s nearly 40 pounds of added sugar per person every year!

Half of this sugar is consumed in beverages like sodas, fruit drinks and energy drinks. Another 20 percent comes from the foods eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner and the rest comes from snacks and desserts.

Sugar is also found in many foods like sauces and ready meals. Ironically, supposedly healthier low-fat foods often contain more sugar than the standard version. The low fat versions are much less appealing to our taste buds so manufacturers add in other ingredients, including sugar, to recreate taste and texture.

Snack foods, fast foods and takeout foods often provide much more sugar than you would imagine. A McDonald’s milkshake for example, contains 16 cubes of sugar! Regular chocolate is 50 percent sugar. That’s 50 grams of sugar in a 100 gram bar!

Low Sugar Diet Has Immediate Health Benefits

This new study attempted to answer the question: how much harm is caused by sugar? We know that being overweight or obese contributes to illness but what about sugar all by itself? What happens if you cut out sugar but keep the calories and the weight constant?

It’s an important question to answer because so much of our food supply contains a lot of added sugars. Would your health benefit if you simply reduced your sugar intake?

Direct Link Between Added Sugar And Metabolic Syndrome

The results of the study proved that calories from sugar have a direct effect on metabolic syndrome markers. It’s an important finding, especially since the incidence of metabolic disease is on the rise in children.

“Wherever there was food with added sugar in their diets, we took it out and we replaced it with a no-added-sugar version,” Dr. Lustig said.

The goal was not to reduce or eliminate carbohydrates. The idea was to reduce sugary foods and replace them with starchy foods without lowering total calorie intake.

“This paper says we can turn a child’s metabolic health around in 10 days without changing calories and without changing weight – just by taking the added sugars out of their diet,” he said. “From a clinical standpoint, from a health care standpoint, that’s very important.”

Natural Sugars Are Not The Problem

The experiment showed that it’s not the sugar that occurs naturally in foods like fruit that is the problem. It’s the extra sweeteners that food companies put in their products that is the biggest problem.

The Food and Drug Administration knows this. That’s why it recently proposed that food companies list the amount of added sugars on their product labels. They later expanded on the proposal by asking that companies also list a daily percent value for added sugars. The new labels are expected to help people stay in line with the guideline to restrict sugar to 10 percent of total calories.

Sugar Association Is Opposed To Listing Added Sugars

The food industry has opposed the changes citing a lack of scientific evidence that added sugars are bad for your health. Well, these latest results demonstrate a direct cause and effect relationship between sugar and metabolic syndrome, not merely an association.

This new study also shows exactly how effective the new 10 percent of calories from sugar recommendation is. All the children in the study experienced amazing results in a very short period of time.

Final Thoughts

The study doesn’t clear obesity as a health risk. It’s not saying that weight does not matter so long as you don’t eat added sugars. Nothing could be further from the truth. But it does show that sugar by itself is especially harmful.

There can be no more dancing around the issue that consuming added sugar contributes to a litany of chronic diseases, especially in children.

It is not likely that many food manufacturers will start listing the amount of added sugar on their labels willingly. Our government needs to take a firmer stand on the issue and make it a requirement.

Until that happens, we need to vote with our dollars by buying products from those companies who do the right thing and start listing sugar content on their labels voluntarily. Low sugar diet benefits will be much easier to achieve once it’s clear exaclty how much added sugar is in each and every product.