It’s no small secret that too much sugar isn’t doing our body any favours. But can it actually contribute to unhealthy weight gain? Let’s see what the science says.
All the calories, none of the nutrients
If we were to look at weight gain as a simple equation of energy in, energy out (and we acknowledge it’s often far more complicated than this), the fact is, plain old sugar is pretty energy-dense, without containing any of the good stuff to help our bodies function at their best.
Sugar is essentially there to make things taste great, and make us eat more and more of it. This was super helpful back in caveman times when our ancestors would come across the sweet stuff super rarely – as a great source of energy, it was beneficial to feast when the going was good.
It’s not so helpful when you can nick down to the shops and buy an entire box of Krispy Kremes, nor when you’re presented with sugary food options literally. EVERYWHERE.
The sweet triple whammy
On top of this, many common sugary vices (we’re looking at you sweets, baked goods and ice cream) are packed with even more calories from unhealthy fats and oils.
There also totally devoid of protein, the main macronutrient that promotes that feeling of fullness. This means they don’t really keep us satiated for very long, leaving us reaching for even more unnecessary calories to get us through the day.
PLUS, early research suggests fructose (aka table sugar) also mucks with our hunger hormones, increasing the ones that say “we’re hungry” and supressing the ones that say “we’ve had enough”.
Tallying all of this together, it makes sense that indulging in these kinds of foods on a regular basis can cause you to gain excess body fat faster and more drastically.
(And we haven’t even touched on insulin resistance and visceral fat, which is a whole other story we’ll cover in a post soon.)
The science of soft drinks
Soft drinks are considered a bit of a low hanging fruit when it comes to cutting back sugar consumption, considering they’re basically just sugar and water.
This is why a lot of the major scientific studies looking at the links between sugar and weight gain (as well as a whole host of other health conditions) have focussed on them.
And it’s not a pretty picture. A recent systematic review covering more than 242,000 people found a significant association between sugar sweetened beverages and obesity.
Wellness not weight loss
Weight gain aside, studies show that diets high in added sugar can increase your risk of major chronic health conditions as well. We’re talking insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and liver disease, to name just a few.
So while reducing your sugar intake may help you lose weight, we reckon there are plenty of even better reasons for saying see ya to the sweet stuff!