If you take an active interest in eating healthy food, you’ve no doubt heard a steady stream of advice about why you should eat little or no sugar.
Sugar generates so many health problems, I almost don’t know where to start in naming them.
Eating too much sugar makes you more liable to gain weight,1 experience heart disease,2 develop blood sugar difficulties that can lead to diabetes,3 develop liver disease4 and increases your chances of cancer.5
And that’s not a complete list.
As if all that weren’t enough to make you respect and fear the destructive power of sugar, research at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) now demonstrates there’s another alarming reason to avoid it.
The latest research shows that not only does sugar consumed at a meal potentially lead to a long list of health problems, it can warp how your body digests, absorbs and metabolizes other nutrients you consume at the same meal.
Things Don’t Go Better With Sugary Drinks
The USDA researchers looked into what happens in the digestive tract and the rest of the body when you consume a protein-rich food (like a burger) and also sip a sugary soft drink between bites of your food.
Their analysis shows that this combo causes your body to absorb substantially more calories, leads to the creation of extra body fat and, after you polish off your burger and soft drink, makes your brain hungry for salty snack foods.6
And that urge to snack? It can last for four hours.
Normally, if you eat something like a burger, your body oxidizes (burns off) much of the fat in the food pretty effectively. But, according to the USDA study, the addition of a sugary drink cuts this calorie incineration by 8% on average. And the more protein you eat – say, if you indulge in a jumbo burger – the larger the reduction in fat oxidation climbs when you’re mixing it with the sugar drink.
These changes in the body’s response to a meal shocked the researchers.
“We were surprised by the impact that the sugar-sweetened drinks had on metabolism when they were paired with higher-protein meals,” says researcher Shanon Casperson. “This combination also increased study subjects’ desire to eat savory and salty foods for four hours after eating.”
In addition, as you might expect, the researchers found that all the extra sugar calories in the soft drink did not make people feel more satisfied with the meal than if they had merely taken in water.
Based on these findings, the researchers believe their study shows that our national indulgence in fast food – and our frequent habit of downing soft drinks with our burgers (or chicken) and fries – is contributing in a big way to the obesity and diabetes epidemic.
Ditch The Artificial Sweeteners
And by the way, if you’re hooked on soft drinks and think that switching to a diet soda is a good idea, think again.
Research generally shows that low-calorie, artificially flavored drinks do not help people lose weight.
For instance, a study at the Imperial College in London shows these drinks are not any better for your waistline than a soft drink with high fructose corn syrup in it.7
According to researcher Christopher Millett, “A common perception, which may be influenced by industry marketing, is that because ‘diet’ drinks have no sugar, they must be healthier and aid weight loss when used as a substitute for full sugar versions. However we found no solid evidence to support this.”
The British scientists believe that artificially-sweetened beverages change the body’s metabolism in ways that still make you vulnerable to extra pounds around the middle, higher blood pressure and an increased risk of diabetes.
The studies on these industrial sweeteners do not support their alleged benefits.
As far as beverages go, things like plain water, tea and coffee still seem the best bet for your health. Water is number one in my book.