Some calories more harmful than others

May 15, 2018 by Amy Quinton, UC Davis
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

While calories from any food have the potential to increase the risk of obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases, 22 nutrition researchers agree that sugar-sweetened beverages play a unique role in chronic health problems. The disease risk increases even when the beverages are consumed within diets that do not result in weight gain.

It's just one of the conclusions published today in Obesity Reviews in a position paper by a group of researchers who participated in the 2017 CrossFit Foundation Academic Conference. The task of researchers was to deliberate the question: Are all calories equal with regards to effects on cardiometabolic and obesity? The paper provides an extensive review of the current science on diets that can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

The paper's sugar-sweetened beverage consensus is particularly relevant in light of a recent legal battle over warning labels on soda, which hinged on the 9th Circuit Court's determination of whether soda and other sweetened beverages are uniquely harmful to human health or one source of calories among many.

"What's new is that this is an impressive group of scientists with vast experience in nutrition and metabolism agreeing with the conclusion that increase cardiometabolic risk factors compared to equal amounts of starch," said lead author Kimber Stanhope, a research nutritional biologist with the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

Sugar substitute won't make you fat

Another interesting point of consensus among researchers is the role of the sugar substitute aspartame. The authors agreed that aspartame does not promote weight gain in adults. Stanhope said this might come as a surprise to most people.

"If you go on the internet and look up aspartame, the layperson would be convinced that aspartame is going to make them fat, but it's not," said Stanhope. "The long and short of it is that no human studies on noncaloric sweeteners show ."

The authors also agreed that consumption of polyunsaturated (n-6) fats, such as those found in some vegetable oils, seeds and nuts, lowers disease risk when compared with equal amounts of saturated fats. However, that conclusion comes with a caveat. Dairy foods such as cheese and yogurts, which can be high in saturated fats, have been associated with reduced cardiometabolic risk.

The paper reviews the significant challenges involved in conducting and interpreting nutrition research.

"We have a long way to go to get precise answers on a lot of different nutrition issues," said Stanhope. "Nevertheless, we all agree that a healthy diet pattern consisting of minimally processed whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats promotes health compared with the refined and palatable typical Western diet pattern."

Explore further: Sugar-sweetened drinks raise risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome

More information: K. L. Stanhope et al. Pathways and mechanisms linking dietary components to cardiometabolic disease: thinking beyond calories, Obesity Reviews (2018). DOI: 10.1111/obr.12699

Related Stories

Sugar-sweetened drinks raise risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome

November 2, 2017
Regularly drinking sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda and juice contributes to the development of diabetes, high blood pressure and other endemic health problems, according to a review of epidemiological studies published ...

Drinking sugary drinks may be associated with greater risk of death

March 21, 2018
Adults over the age of 45 who consume large amounts of sugary beverages including soft drinks, fruit drinks and fruit juices may have a higher risk of dying from heart disease or other causes, compared to those who drink ...

Sugary drinks boost risk factors for heart disease, study shows

April 22, 2015
Beverages sweetened with low, medium and high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup significantly increase risk factors for cardiovascular disease, even when consumed for just two weeks by young, healthy men and women, reports ...

Drinking diet beverages during pregnancy linked to child obesity, study suggests

June 6, 2017
Children born to women who had gestational diabetes and drank at least one artificially sweetened beverage per day during pregnancy were more likely to be overweight or obese at age 7, compared to children born to women who ...

Replacing just one sugary drink with water could significantly improve health

August 15, 2016
Think one little sugary soda won't make a difference on your waistline? Think again.

Sugar-sweetened beverages suppress the body's stress response

April 16, 2015
Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can suppress the hormone cortisol and stress responses in the brain, but diet beverages sweetened with aspartame do not have the same effect, according to a new study published in the Endocrine ...

Recommended for you

Bid to beat obesity focuses on fat that keeps us warm

May 24, 2018
A new technique to study fat stores in the body could aid efforts to find treatments to tackle obesity.

Antidepressant use may contribute to long-term population weight gain

May 24, 2018
Researchers at King's College London have found that patients prescribed any of the 12 most commonly used antidepressants were 21% more likely to experience an episode of gain weight than those not taking the drugs, (after ...

Can excess weight in toddlers cause brain drain?

May 23, 2018
(HealthDay)—Extra pounds in early childhood may do more than put a child's physical health at risk—they might result in a slightly lower IQ, new research suggests.

Early-life obesity impacts children's learning and memory, study suggests

May 23, 2018
A new study by Brown University epidemiologists found that children on the threshold of obesity or overweight in the first two years of life had lower perceptual reasoning and working memory scores than lean children when ...

Some calories more harmful than others

May 15, 2018
While calories from any food have the potential to increase the risk of obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases, 22 nutrition researchers agree that sugar-sweetened beverages play a unique role in chronic health problems. ...

Fat cells seem to remember unhealthy diet

April 23, 2018
It only takes 24 hours for a so-called precursor fat cell to reprogram its epigenetic recipe for developing into a fat cell. This change occurs when the cell is put into contact with the fatty acid palmitate or the hormone ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.