July 05, 2013

New research shows why it might be unrealistic to cut both fats and sugars from your diet at the same time.

The review, published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, looked at 53 scientific papers and found a strong and consistent inverse association in the percentage of energy coming from fats and sugars. Diets low in sugars were likely to be high in fat, and vice-versa; a phenomenon referred to as the ‘sugar-fat seesaw’.

Dr Michele Sadler, who led the research team, said: "A key reason that we see this sugar-fat seesaw is likely to be because sources of sugars such as fruit, breakfast cereals and juices are low in fat, while sources of fat such as oils and meat products are low in sugar."

The study demonstrates the importance of considering the diet as a whole, rather than focusing on one food or nutrient. Dr Sadler added: "This study highlights the need to focus dietary messages on eating a healthy balanced diet and not categorising individual nutrients as good or bad, which could result in unbalanced dietary habits."

This study further supports the importance of focusing on the overall eating pattern, rather than negative messages about individual foods and nutrients. "Advice to avoid specific foods or nutrients is often conflicting and is unlikely to be effective in achieving an overall healthy eating pattern and healthy weight" says Dr. Tristin Brisbois, Manager Nutrition & Scientific Affairs with the Canadian Sugar Institute. "As this study shows, simplistic messages to avoid sugar may have other unintended effects, such as a high fat diet. When we eliminate a food from the diet we tend to replace it with another, which may not be a healthier choice."

To view the full article:
Sadler MJ, McNulty H & Gibson S (2013) Sugar-fat seesaw: A systematic review of the evidence. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2011.654013