If you need more convincing that refined sugars are wreaking havoc on your health, then look no further than this newest study, which shows that cutting added sugar for just a few days dramatically improves health.
The study, published in Obesity, followed 43 obese children with chronic metabolic conditions such as hypertension. The researchers changed their diets for nine days, substituting their normal snacks and drinks with ones that kept the calorie counts the same but restricted sugar — so instead of sugary yoghurts, pastries, and cereals, the kids were fed hot dogs, bagels, fruit, and pizza. The results were "striking," says lead author and paediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, MD. Even though the children were eating the same amount of calories, just eliminating added sugar from their diets improved almost all areas of their metabolic health, such as lower blood pressure, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin levels, and improved liver function tests. Plus, even though the experiment was designed to maintain weight — the children were given more food whenever they started to lose weight — the kids told researchers that they felt fuller on the lower-sugar diet.
Lustig calls this finding "the strongest evidence to date that the negative effects of sugar are not because of calories or obesity." "This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful not because of its calories or its effects on weight; rather sugar is metabolically harmful because it's sugar," he says. The findings are also a clear indication that monitoring added sugars in your family's diet is extremely important for improving health and may affect how your body deals with cravings and satiety cues. Added sugars can show up as many different names on ingredient lists, so it pays to read nutrition labels and go for unprocessed foods whenever possible. Take it from Lustig, who explains that when it comes to what you put on your plate, a calorie is not just a calorie, and in fact, "sugar calories are the worst."
Related: What's So Bad About Added Sugar?