I’m a nutrition consultant for various food and beverage companies, but my opinions are my own.
Media is abuzz with talk about sugar. After all, sugar is toxic, right?! The newly released movie “Fed Up” has consumers shocked and scared into thinking this is the truth, and now there’s a new diet book saying the same thing: Sugar Savvy: The 6-Week Solution to Kicking Your Sugar Addiction for Life, by Kathie Dolgin, who goes by the name “High Voltage.”
But is sugar, or any type of caloric sweetener for that matter, really to blame for obesity and associated diseases, or is this just one more fad diet to pile up on your bookshelf?
Sugar Savvy starts with the premise that sugar is addictive and killing us; however, there is very little evidence this is true in humans. Animal studies have shown that the way sugar is eaten, not the amount, is what affects weight gain. When rats were fed a sugar solution throughout the day, addictive behavior was not seen, but when the rats were deprived of sugar and then finally given access to the solution, they binged on it in a short period of time and that’s when the researchers saw “addictive” behavior. To me, all that shows is that deprivation doesn’t lead to good decision-making and isn’t a solution for weight loss and maintenance, which is what I have counseled clients on for years.
In her book, “High Voltage” also talks about the increase in sugar intake over the past 50 years and points out all sorts of packaged food products that contain sugar and other sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup. It is true that Americans have been eating about 474 more calories per day than they did in the 1970s, but added sugars only account for 35 of those extra calories (7%). The problem – and the reason for the continuing rise in obesity – is that we are eating more of everything – fat, carbs, and protein – and moving less. Science still shows that the best way to achieve a healthy body weight is to moderate total calorie intake by eating a variety of foods in appropriate portion sizes and exercising regularly.
On a positive note, the Sugar Savvy program does include elements of this balance, with a daily workout and a meal plan developed by a registered dietitian (I was certainly happy to see an RD was involved). Other parts of the Sugar Savvy program incorporate the behavioral aspect of weight loss like stress-beating strategies and daily affirmations, which are designed to help you change the way you think, feel, and talk to yourself – an important part of making lifestyle changes. The main issue I have with Sugar Savvy is the limit of 24 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar in 24 hours, which is more rigid than necessary, difficult to stick with for the long haul, and inappropriately singles out one ingredient as the main culprit for weight gain and associated health issues, which we know is not correct.
The Bottom Line: Readers of Sugar Savvy should take the claims with a grain of salt (pun intended) as many factors are responsible for obesity and preventing and reducing obesity is a complex challenge, which will take more to solve than eliminating sugar or any one nutrient or ingredient from our diet.
What are your thoughts about all the focus on sugar and sweeteners as the cause of obesity?