Fat Fiction Fat, lies and measuring tape


Sugar, the magic weight loss fuel


If there’s one food that everyone, from dietary advice councils to paleo enthusiasts routinely round up on, it’s sugar. Guaranteed to make you sick, ill, fat, deficient and hyperglycaemic, it’s the pure refined stuff found in foods worldwide, and is the very definition of guilty pleasure. And yet, it can make you lose weight.

Unwittingly, a review of “liquid calories, sugar and body weight” (full paper here) sits right at the heart of the obesity epidemic and even provides the answer, although the authors don’t realise it. Prior to this paper, there have been dozen of reviews which generally (although not all) conclude drinking empty calories like Fanta makes you fat. And even Diet Fanta seems to increase hunger and make you eat more, so same deal.

And so why would that be?

“The standard explanation is that energy-containing liquids are less satiating than are solid foods. However, purely physiologic mechanisms do not fully account for the proposed links between liquid sugar energy and body weight change”

What’s the problem? Well, amongst others:

“Numerous clinical studies have shown that sugar-containing liquids, when consumed in place of usual meals, can lead to a significant and sustained weight loss [my bolding]. The principal ingredient of liquid meal replacement shakes is sugar, often high-fructose corn syrup, which is present in amounts comparable to those in soft drinks. Far from suppressing satiety, one such liquid shake is marketed on the grounds that it helps control hunger and prevents hunger longer when consumed for the purpose of weight loss…

Despite its popularity, the notion that liquid calories are not perceived by the body … rests on inconclusive evidence"

Right, so Turdfast (I’m not dignifying it with the brand name) works? Seemingly so. And here’s the real kicker for those thinking that losing weight has to be healthy:

“In randomized clinical trials with overweight adults, daily consumption of liquid MR shakes, some containing HFCS, led to a sustained and significant weight loss (2627). Sugared liquid shakes were reported to be more effective in promoting weight loss than were low-fat diets that included plenty of vegetables and fruit (26).”

Let’s just let that sink in again. So compared to low-fat diets with vegetables and fruit, a Crapfast works better. Blimey. So what does that mean then?

“Depending on who uses them, in what context, and for what purpose, sugar-containing liquids can lead either to weight gain or to weight loss (26).”

I’m not clear, are you saying the purpose of eating sugar is more important than the effect on your body? So if I say, “I am drinking 2 litres of Dr Pepper to lose weight”, it becomes so? That’s my friends is the definition of magic dust. Magic dust you hear me? Get me some. Anyway, do go on…

“These clinical data stand in stark contrast to the prevailing notion that the consumption of liquid sugar energy has inevitable metabolic consequences leading to weight gain (141720). Rather, the studies indicate that sugared MR shakes can safely and effectively produce a significant weight loss (26). The shakes were undoubtedly liquid, they supplied significant sugar energy, and, in some cases, they contained HFCS.

Later studies confirmed the efficacy of liquids in promoting weight loss. Using soy-based liquid shakes with a higher protein and lower sugar content (13 g), Allison et al (61) found that the PMR group lost significantly more weight than did the control conventional diet group (7.0 and 2.9 kg, respectively)…  liquid sugar shakes were said to be more effective in promoting weight loss than were diets high in vegetables and fruit”

Right, so sugared fizzy drinks cause you to gain weight. Yet weight loss drinks full of the same if not more sugar make you lose weight. Crikey, so what’s your conclusion?

“If daily consumption of liquid sugar energy (30-60 g/d) can lead either to weight gain or to weight loss, then the discussion needs to shift from human physiology to human dietary behavior…Evidently, the critical issue is not sugar metabolism but the way that sugar is used by the consumer.”

Say what you mean

Let me translate that because they're far too polite to say it out loud. If you’re overweight, it’s your fault, lardarse. You’re eating too much. Calories in, calories out. Simple as that. Put down the Coke, stop eating so much and go for a run. Simple. You eat less, you lose weight. Case solved.

But hold on a minute. You’ve discussed the sugar in a Poofast, but that’s not all they contain is it? What’s the difference between a can of Coke and a meal replacement shake? How about all the vitamins, minerals, protein and fatty acids you need to metabolise fat? Do you not think that maybe the ingredients essential to human life contained in a meal replacement drink – may play a significant part in this? The clue’s in the name.

They discuss satiety like there’s something wrong with the body’s mechanism that tells us when we’re full. That’s because it’s predicated on the assumption that obesity is caused by overeating. Come off it. Obesity is caused by consuming low nutrient foods and having to eat so bloody much of them, you need to consume more before you can possibly become satisfied. Your hunger is linked directly to your own levels of nutrients.

You eat enough to survive. If by the time you’re ‘satisfied’ you haven’t absorbed enough vitamins, minerals, protein and fatty acids to use your own fat as a fuel source in the future, your hunger will continue tomorrow and the weight increase – and food consumption - will continue.

And how do you get these vitamins, minerals, protein, fatty acids? Not withstanding any malabsorption issues you may have caused by gluten damage you:

a)       Turn to highly nutritious foods

b)       Supplement

c)       Starve yourself, and allow your body to use muscles to provide those nutrients

Grrr, it’s calories in, calories out. Isn’t it?

You can make people hyperventilate by telling them calories in, calories out doesn’t matter. I’ve even said before, fat people eat less than thin people with, I’ll freely admit, a touch of artistic license – however, average calorie consumption has gone down at the same time as obesity going up. For a prime example of apoplectic rage, read Anthony Colpo steamrolling into ‘low-carb shills’ here  Like a machine gun that obliterates anything that gets in his way, he’s currently gunning for Robb Wolf and Dr Eades (paleo leader and low-carb doctor respectively) but he’s so focused on the points of difference, he’s missing the broad consensus that highly processed foods are the key drivers of obesity, especially white flour and sugar. They both happen to be carbohydrates. I doubt whether that’ll make them all friends but still.

Anyway, do fat people consume more energy than they need? Absolutely they did at some point which is why they’re fat. But the why is crucial – they are fat because their body is not eliciting a preference to burn body fat, and so their body triggers hunger. Obesity is a deficiency disease.

If you turn to foods high in antinutrients such as phytate and lectins – and yes, I’m especially pointing at you flour - then you are guaranteed to eat more, unless the rest of your diet is so nutritious you can counteract the negative effects of your lunchtime sarnie. Calories in, calories out is flawed because it’s a false target. The target is to pack as many nutrients into your diet as possible. It’s all about nutrients in, nutrients out (thus the NINO diet). You ensure you get the right nutrients, your body weight takes care of itself.

You need to get hunger under control, and know what foods are nutritious, and what foods aren’t. Highly processed foods are full of things your body doesn’t need, whereas whole foods are full of what you do. Sugar can top up your glycogen stores sure, which is useful for quick conversion fuel for exercise but it doesn’t have any other benefits. It really is that simple.

The real conclusion

So, to the writers of this report- your conclusion needs a bit of work. They say:

“Evidently, the critical issue is not sugar metabolism but the way that sugar is used by the consumer.”

How about we make some amends and you change it to:

“Evidently, sugar’s obesogenic role is the delivery of energy in conjunction with nutrient deficit. When consumed in conjunction with other nutrients, as in a meal replacement shake, the effect can be nutrient positive, reducing hunger and subsequent energy intake, resulting in weight loss. However, given the low-sugar meal replacement shakes result in faster weight loss than the high sugar ones, sugar cannot be exonerated from its impact on obesity.

This suggests that obesity may be primarily caused by excessive energy consumption caused by hunger caused by a deficit of nutrients.”

Researchers, you can thank me later, but if you turn around and use it to justify adding vitamins to cans of Coke I will come and find you and force feed you meal replacements till you beg me to stop.

Edit 1) 19/1/11: The report is from none other than American Beverage Association. Thanks @ToSiberia

Edit 2) 19/1/11: It's happened already: aaaaaaggh!

Photo from Lauren Javier

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. “…sugar-containing liquids can lead either to weight gain or to weight loss..”

    What would we do without experts? Are the experts familiar with another term for meal replacement shakes: “protein shakes”? Have they heard that protein is filling, and wondered if feeling full helps people stay on a diet? Have these people ever tried various foods and taken stock of their own reactions to them? Haven’t they ever been hungry after a salad–that fiber that’s supposed to be so filling? Are they deliberately stupid because they’d have to find a new line of work if they wised up?


    I make my own protein shake every morning with low-carb sprouted rice protein powder, soaked and roasted nuts, water and a bunch of vitamins and minerals. If I have a few cups of coffee with cream too, I’m stuffed on under 300 calories.

    • It all becomes clear Lori, research was sponsored by none other than the Beverage Association which explains a lot. Who’d have thought it eh?

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