New Year's weight loss resolutions should be based on science and common sense

Published online: Jan 18, 2014
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Many have made the resolution to lose weight in 2014.
When considering the diet plan that is right for you, one thing to remember is natural sugar, at only 15 calories per teaspoon, is no more fattening than any other 15 calories.
In fact, sugar (like all digestible carbohydrates) and protein supply 4 calories per gram, whereas fats deliver more than twice that - 9 calories per gram. The body will use sugar to meet its energy needs before it uses most fats. That is why most dietary fats are stored in fat cells to be used later.
Since sugar is not uniquely fattening, replacing sugar with other caloric or artificial sweeteners is not a workable solution to weight management. Weight loss occurs by reducing the total amount of calories consumed or increasing caloric expenditure through regular physical activity. Common sense says that a combination of reduced calorie intake and increased calorie burning will be more successful than either single strategy.
The reality is this: effective weight management depends on the combination of responsible eating and appropriate physical activity.
There is no doubt that the centerpieces of a diet should be fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other fiber-rich and calcium-rich foods and that some foods or beverages should be consumed as treats.
However, the assertion that a food is less healthy just because it contains sugar is misleading and not science based. Numerous studies have confirmed that sugar makes many healthful foods palatable, which helps contribute to intakes of key vitamins and minerals necessary to maintain good health.
All-natural sugar/sucrose is a valuable ingredient worldwide. Sugar is used in food not only because it provides sweet taste, but sugar also provides essential functional properties required in food formulation.
Further, removing sugar from foods is based on the false assumption that sugar is an expendable ingredient in all foods and can be replaced by artificial sweeteners. Unless scientific evidence can validate the efficacy of advice that may lead to the replacement of natural ingredients with artificial, this potential change in our food supply could have the unintended consequences of impacting metabolism, satiety and could well lead to a preference for highly intense sweetness, especially with children.
Clearly, the important consideration for healthy eating is not the sugar content of a food but the nutrient contribution of the food and having a healthy overall diet that does not exceed your caloric needs. Simply avoiding certain natural ingredients like sugar will not assure nutrient rich diets or reduce caloric intakes. This was the lesson learned from the low-fat decade in the 1990s.
Studies show that sugar is uniquely satiating. The old saying, "a little bit goes a long way" holds true for foods made with sugar.