The science behind why sugar makes us fat.
We’ve all heard that sugar makes you fat, but why exactly? Here’s what weight watchers need to know.
Sugar causes weight gain. (Photo: subbotina / www.123rf.com)
Sugar makes you hungrier faster so you end up eating more
In a recent small study, researchers compared the satiety levels of 20 volunteers who consumed glucose- or fructose-sweetened drinks (both of which had the same number of calories). Those who had fructose – an added sugar commonly found in processed foods like sweets, soda and cereal – were still hungry and did not feel satisfied.
Another study also showed fructose doesn’t satiate your appetite as it has less effects on the hunger hormone ghrelin than glucose. Meaning that since you get hungry faster after consuming fructose, you could end up with an increase in overall calorie intake.
For those trying to lose weight, know that it takes a lot of activity to burn off those extra calories. How much? That’s 30 minutes of aerobics for 50g of sugar (200 calories), says Goh Yih Shian, dietitian at Dayspring Corporate Wellness.
Sugar increases leptin resistance so your body doesn’t know when to stop eating
If ghrelin tells you to start eating, leptin instructs you to stop. When working normally, your body responds to this “satisfaction hormone” by curbing your appetite and boosting calorie burn. Excessive intake of simple sugars, which includes both glucose and fructose, may increase leptin resistance (when your body no longer responds to the hormone) and could cause weight gain.
More bad news: leptin resistance is more common in plus-sized people. “Unfortunately, overweight people tend to have leptin receptors that do not work, making them immune to the effects of this appetite-suppressing hormone,” says Dr Kevin Tan, a consultant in diabetes, endocrinology and internal medicine at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
How to reduce or cut sugar from your diet for weight loss
1. Read the nutritional label
Excess added sugar lurks in almost all canned food (including pasta sauce and soup), condiments like ketchup, and even seemingly healthy foods like yogurt, salad dressing, snack bars and energy drinks. Try not to have more than 25g, or six teaspoons, of sugar each day. (Ps. Regular cola contains an equivalent of more than nine teaspoons of sugar, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.)
2. Substitute sugar for another sweetener
Instead of sugar, consider natural sweeteners like stevia or maple syrup. See which six sugar alternatives to try.
3. Avoid snacking
Keep your blood sugar levels balanced by eating proper meals. Take lean protein, complex carbohydrates like wholegrains and green leafy veggies, and low-GI fruits like strawberries, pears and peaches to keep full without triggering more sugar cravings. Also, drink plenty of water as dehydration can cause you to crave something sweet too.