Fat was the meals villain these previous decades but sugar is quickly muscling directly into take its place. As rates of sugar-related disorders such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease climb, many experts believe that when Americans rid themselves of fat, they simplyreplaced it with sugar in most its forms.
But proving that the rise from the chronic diseases was really associated with higher sugar consumption is really a challenge. Dr. Robert Lustig, from the department of pediatrics at the University of California, Bay area, who has made a reputation for himself publishing books and research addressing the question of sugar’s effects on the body, wanted clearer answers. Now, in a paper published Tuesday, he and the colleagues believe they have develop the definitive evidence that sugar, as Lustig says, “is toxic.”
In most lab studies, the doses of sugar that scientists test are quite high; they want to see exactly what the effect is easily and, with respect to the research, they might not have time for you to wait to study the greater gradual effects that might emerge. As well as in studies where people reduce the quantity of sugar they eat, for example, those individuals end up eating fewer calories overall, so it’s difficult to know whether any changes are due to removing sugar or to the drop in calories.
Lustig and his colleagues think they’ve produced the “hard and fast data that sugar is toxic irrespective of its calories and irrespective of weight.”
Lustig’s confidence originates from theunique study, described in Obesity, of 43 Hispanic or African-American children aged eight to 18 years of age. He collected detailed food questionnaires from each of the adolescents to get an idea of the typical quantity of calories they ate per day, then developed a special menu for every of these for nine days that matched the entire numbers of calories they’d normally eat. The only improvement in the nine-day diet was that most of the sugar the kids ate was substituted with starch – the general quantity of calories remained exactly the same. The kids weighed themselves daily, and if these were losing weight, they were told to consume more of the provided food in order to keep their weight the same throughout the study.
“Everything improved,” says Lustig. A few of the children went from being insulin resistant, a precursor state to developing diabetes, in which the body’s insulin levels can’t keep up with the pace of breaking down sugar that’s arriving from the diet, to insulin sensitive.
“We took chicken teriyaki out, and put turkey hotdogs in. We took sweetened yogurt out, and put baked poker chips in. We took pastries out and set bagels in,” says Lustig. “So there was no alternation in [the children’s] weight with no change in calories.”
After nine days of having their total dietary sugar reduced to 10% of the daily calories, however, they showed improvements in all of these measures. Overall, their fasting glucose levels dropped by 53%, along with the quantity of insulin their health produced since insulin is normally needed to break up carbohydrates and sugars. Their triglyceride and LDL levels also declined and, most significantly, they showed less fat in their liver.
Because some of the children lost weight, to convince themselves the effects weren’t because of the small amount of weight that some of the children lost, Lustig and his team compared those who lost weight to those who didn’t during the study, and found similar improvements both in groups.
“Up until now, there have been lots of correlation studies linking sugar and metabolic syndrome,” says Lustig. “This is causation.”
The diet he provided the kids isn’t considered ideal from a health perspective – starches continue to be a considerable source of calories and may contribute to putting on weight. But Lustig trusted the starches to prove a place inside a scientific study – that the effect sugar has on the body goes beyond anything connected to its calories and also to weight. “I’m not suggesting in any way, shape or form that people gave them healthy food choices,” he states. “We gave them crappy food, shitty food, processed food – plus they still improved. Imagine just how much even better they would have gotten if we didn’t substitute and took the sugar out. Then they might have gotten better still yet. That’s the point.”
Not most people are believing that the outcomes definitely prove sugar, and not weight loss, may be the culprit, however. Susan Roberts, professor of Nutrition, USDA Nutrition Center at Tufts University notes that because some of the children lost weight, it’s still possible that shedding the pounds helped their metabolic measures to enhance. She also points out the children self-reported their initial diet, which could regularly be inaccurate. “We know that a healthy diet and weight loss cause good metabolic changes, and even though this research attempts to attribute its effects to low fructose, in fact it is out of the question that due to the study design.”
Some experts are concerned for some other reasons. They’re worried that the findings may shift attention away from the things they say is the greater fundamental issue – that overall, we’re eating too much. “Too much calorie intake remains the biggest problem,” says Dr. Mark Corkins, professor of pediatrics at University of Tennessee Health Science Center and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on nutrition. He notes that the study involved children who have been obese already and consuming too many calories. “It’s an essential study, and also the facts appearing out of it are important. This means we have to take a look at sugars, and also at the type of sugars and sugar intake. However i worry that people are likely to hang everything on this when we still need reduce consumption.”
Lustig hopes that won’t happen as more data emerges that details how sugar is altering your body in unhealthy ways beyond its caloric contribution. That wasn’t the topic of the present paper, but he promises follow-up studies based on the work which will address that. This study does hint however, at what might be happening. While there’s been a lot of attention around the presence of stomach fat and it is connection to metabolic syndrome, the fact that the children saw improvements within the amount of fat in their liver suggests that might be an essential method in which sugar is adding to chronic disease. Obese children and those with diabetes often suffer from fatty liver, an ailment normally associated with excessive drinking but increasingly common among non-drinkers who gain excessive amounts of weight.
This new view of sugar could alter the advice that doctors and government nutritionists give about eating the sweet stuff. Lustig’s hope would be that the information is regarded as the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalizes its latest Dietary Guidelines, expected by the end of the year, which delineate strategies for what, and how much of different types of foods and nutrients Americans should eat.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.