All books from past years say cutting out carbohydrates, especially sugar, is the true path to weight loss. The common perception, years ago was that sugar intake was associated with several chronic diseases: diabetes, coronary heart disease, obesity.
Many people still believe that sugar is fattening. But, experts say it’s time to find a new path because they say sugar itself does not make you fat.
As sugar intake goes up, fat intake goes down — a fact that was confirmed by researchers from Michigan State University at East Lansing. Research shows that eating a high-fat diet will, indeed, make you fat.
Researchers of Purdue University in Indiana (United States) have found that the artificial sweeteners are more fattening than sugar as the consumption of the low-calorie substitutes makes it harder for people to control their intake as well as body weight (2008).
Part of the reason behind all the fingers pointing at sugar stems from the indisputable fact that people are eating more sugar than ever and, coincidentally, are fatter than ever. But what’s often overlooked in that seemingly logical argument is that we are also less physically active than ever. So we’re less active, but we’re eating more calories and fat.
Despite popular belief that sugar causes obesity, a number of studies show an inverse relationship between reported sugar consumption and degree of overweight. Research has confirmed that very little carbohydrate from the food we eat is converted to body fat under normal circumstances. This is true of all types of carbohydrate, including sugar. Obesity is basically a consequence of higher energy intake than energy expenditure, where excess calories are stored as fat.
A high intake of fat is far more likely to result in weight gain than a high intake of carbohydrate. This is because all fat calories are immediately stored in fat cells. But carbohydrates and protein are converted into glucose for fuel, and only those calories in excess of the body’s energy needs are stored. And losing weight means losing stored body fat.
A study at Duke University shows that healthy dieters can lose weight on a high-sugar, low-fat diet just as easily as they can on a low-fat, low-sugar diet. Obese women lost weight on low-calorie diet that derived 43 per cent of calories from sugar (simple carbohydrate); matching the weight loss of a group that ate the same number of calories, but which substituted starch and an artificial sweetener in place of sugar.
Results also demonstrated that the body processes simple carbohydrates (sugars) and complex carbohydrates (starches) in much the same manner.
Carbohydrates are the dieter’s best friend. Sugar and other carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram, the same as protein. Fats have more than twice the calories-9 per gram and alcohol 7calories per gram.
Interestingly, in terms of palatability and satiety it is far easier to overeat fat than sugar. Fat in foods does not always taste fatty and thus very high levels of fat intake can be reached without the consumer being aware of it.
Conversely, sugar usually tastes sweet — and high levels become too sweet, thus consumption is limited. Foods that contain sugar and fat, such as chocolate and ice-cream, will taste sweet, not fatty — and then sugar gets the blame for the fact that the food is fattening.
It is recommended to have a high-carbohydrate (55-60% of calories), low-fat (20-25% of calories) diet as the best approach for weight loss. That, plus regular exercise — whether it’s walking, jogging, playing tennis, or simply playing with your kids — is the real key to weight loss, regardless of whether your diet contains sugar.
At the end, one popular calorie-saving tip: Substitute one teaspoon of jam or jelly for butter on your breakfast toast.
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