Added Sugars – Insignificant Impact on Body Weight
Added sugars are defined as sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation (see Appendix C of 2005 Dietary Guidelines). Several past studies have probed the statistical relationship between added sugars and body weight in young children and teens. Not only have contradictory results been reported, those studies that reported a positive association between added sugars and weight failed to provide an estimate of how much the added sugars category by itself may have contributed to weight differences.
A comprehensive analysis of the association between added sugars and the weight of children and adolescents was published recently. The most recent four years of U.S. nationwide nutrition and health survey data were scrutinized to further examine the added sugars/body weight relationship and, more importantly, to calculate what percentage of body weight differences could be ascribed to added sugars.
The reported analyses show that body weights of the children and teens included in this study are essentially independent (not statistically significant) of their intake amounts of added sugars. In fact, obese adolescents (ages 12-18) consumed lower amounts of added sugars than their overweight and normal weight counterparts. The same conclusion was reached when those obviously underreporting or over-reporting their total caloric intakes were excluded from the analysis.
The major contribution to the scientific literature provided by this study is the proportion of body weights that could be attributed to added sugars. Only 0.11% of the body weight differences among the 6 to 11 year old children could be explained by their intake amounts of added sugars. In the case of the 12 to 18 year old adolescents, no more than 0.23% of their body weight differences could be attributed to their intake amounts of added sugars.
Significance: Total diet is but one of the multiple factors controlling changes in body weight during childhood growth. Any recommendation to reduce a single nutrient like sugar discounts the importance of total diet.
Citation: "Intake of added sugars is not associated with weight measures in children 6 to 18 years: National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2003 - 2006." TA Nicklas, CE O'Neil and Y Liu. Nutrition Research, June 2011