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May 15, 2023 - Carbohydrate Nutrition News

Food Sources and Calories Mediate the Effect of Sugars on Obesity

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis (SRMA) conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto reviewed evidence from controlled feeding trials on the effect of different food sources of fructose-containing sugars on body weight and other measures of adiposity. The study was published in the April 2023 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and concluded that “energy control and food sources mediate the effect of fructose-containing sugars on adiposity”. 

The study included 169 trials in 10,357 adults assessing the effects of 14 different food sources of fructose-containing sugars: sugars-sweetened beverages (SSBs); sweetened dairies; sweetened dairy alternatives (soy); 100% fruit juice; fruit drinks; fruits; dried fruits; mixed fruit forms; sweetened cereal grains and bars; sweets and desserts; honey; added nutritive (caloric) sweeteners; mixed sources (with SSBs); and mixed sources (without SSBs). Measurements of adiposity included body weight, body mass index, body fat and waist circumference.

Key findings

Addition trials provide excess energy on top of the habitual diet; Subtraction trials replace fructose-containing sugars with other macronutrients with no change to calories

  1. Findings differed depending on whether sugars-containing foods or beverages were consumed on top of the regular diet (i.e. providing excess energy) or whether sources of sugars were swapped for other foods with no change to energy intake (i.e. energy matched conditions).  (See diagram above)
  2. Food source also mattered – excess energy from SSBs increased adiposity, whereas most other food sources had no effect, and some showed decreases, such as fruits. 

The authors suggest that the differences in findings may be partly explained by the food matrix, such as the presence or absence of fibre, in the different food sources. 

These results are in line with another recent SRMA, which found a positive association between SSB consumption and weight gain in both adults and children. 

Findings highlight the importance of focusing on foods, dietary patterns, and overall calorie intake when it comes to weight management, rather than focusing solely on limiting sugars. 

To read the full papers: 

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