A new study finds further evidence that sugar consumption is linked to diabetes and heart disease in children. The research, conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, and Touro University California, explored the effect of sugar on its ow, rather than the effects of calories in general.
The researchers examined the data of 43 children at an obesity clinic, all of whom had symptoms of metabolic syndrome. At the beginning of the study, the participants got 28 per cent of their total calorie intake from sugar. After changes were made to their diet, that figure dropped to 10 per cent.
Lower sugar intake was the only significant change made to their diets. The participants continued to eat a lot of processed food. However, the researchers observed significant results:
“We reversed virtually every aspect of their metabolic syndromen,” said Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco and lead author of the study.
Dr. Lustig is a prominent critic of the sugar industry, and a firm believer that sugar is the main reason for high levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes. He is the author of “Fat Chance: the hidden truth about sugar.” In the book, he claims that sugar causes health problem independent of its calorie content, a claim that has been disputed by a number of scientists. He has also been criticised by the food industry, who argue that it is overall calorie intake that causes obesity and type 2 diabetes, and too little exercise.
The Grocery Manufacturer’s Associatio, which represents food companies, questioned the study. Leon Burner, the group’s chief science officer, criticised the small size of the study and its focus on people with metabolic disorders, accusing the research of being a “generalisation.”
“The broad conclusions and policy recommendations in this study only serve to further the author’s policy agenda without a sufficient scientific foundatio,” Bruner said.
Similar criticism came from the American Beverage Associatio, which pointed out that the results only found a correlation between sugar and certain health problems. William Dermody, vice president of policy, accused the study of scaremongering: “That’s the problem with studies like this,” he said. “They raise an alarm without the proof.”
Other responses were more positive, but the broad consensus is that this study alone is not enough. Further research is needed. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Centre at Boston Children’s Hospital, said:
“Because of the study’s desig, we can’t be completely certain that the changes are fully attributable to changes in sugar intake,” Dr. Ludwig said. “It’s possible that other aspects of the diet or lifestyle changed.”
Despite his reservations, Dr. Ludwig was positive about the study, calling it “an interesting and useful step forward in assessing the effects of added sugar in children.”
The findings were published in Obesity.

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