Sugar won’t kill you

Finally, some good news. It turns out that a moderate amount of sugar in the form of soft drinks will not create carbohydrate cravings, cause mood crashes or promote weight gain. At least if the research headed by Professor Marie Reid, Professor of Applied Psychology at Queen Margaret University, and published in Appetite (table of contents with rollover abstract; article behind pay wall), can be trusted. And this is a study that we are more inclined to trust than others.

The announcement released today in EurekAlert! describes the study as follows:

In a single-blind, between-subjects design, soft drinks (4 x 25cl per day; 1800 kJ sucrose sweetened versus 67 kJ aspartame sweetened) were added to the diet of overweight women (n = 53, BMI 25 – 30, age 20 – 55) for 4 weeks. Participants were split into two groups and at the beginning of each week subjects took away 28 bottles of an unidentified drink for that week (4 per day). One group received sucrose (n = 24), the other aspartame (n = 29).

Subjects were instructed to consume the specified amount (25cl) each day at specified times (11:00, 14:00, 18:00, 20:00) and to rate their mood directly after the drink in their 7 day diary. Throughout the 5 week study (week 0 baseline, weeks 1 – 4 experimental), participants were also instructed to eat, drink and exercise as usual. At screening and each subsequent week thereafter, subjects’ food diaries were checked and biometric data were obtained.

Mean daily energy intake at baseline (week 0) was 9126.36 kJ (SD 306.28), so the added drinks comprised some 20% of daily energy intake (1,800 kJ). Throughout the study, it was found that the mean increase in energy intake of those taking sucrose drinks between baseline week and week 1 was only 0.5 MJ, and by week 4 participants were consuming no more energy than at baseline. Across both groups it was found that some women in both groups lost, or gained weight, but it was found that there was no consistent trend for sucrose to influence this.

The conclusion that Professor Reid draws from this is that reported mood swings may result from the guilt associated with drinking the soft drinks rather than their physiological effects.

This study was done on overweight women and it supplements (and confirms the results of) a 2007 study on normal weight women. “The results substantiate those of the earlier study and show that women reduced their voluntary energy intake when the sucrose drinks were added to the diet. By the final week of the study, women had reduced their total energy intake back to baseline levels.”

Looking at the table of contents of this magazine (which we had never heard of before) discloses mountains of studies on eating behavior. All of them behind pay walls that would take several weeks worth of your doughnut budget to pay for. I note this fact because in the event that these are all studies sponsored by the fast food, high calorie industry, putting them behind a pay wall is counterproductive. (Of course if they are published for public health reasons, it is even more counterproductive to put the research behind a paywall.)

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