Dr. Perlmutter Answers the Question: If I Don’t Gain Weight, Is It OK to eat Sugar?
It’s now fairly common knowledge that for optimal health it makes sense to reduce the consumption of sugar. The idea that dietary sugars increase the risk for such things as hypertension and the development of health threatening changes in lipid profiles is not new. But a commonly held perception seems to be that these health risks represented a direct consequence of the fact that increased dietary sugar consumption causes weight gain, and that the weight gain is specifically related to all the other health issues.
But in a new publication, researchers in New Zealand reviewed 39 studies that looked at diets in which sugar consumption was increased. Thirty-seven assessed lipid outcomes while 12 evaluated blood pressure.
Their results revealed that higher sugar consumption raised triglyceride levels, total cholesterol, low and high-density lipoprotein as well as both systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
The authors of the study also reported that these findings applied even when there was no change in body weight, stating: “Dietary sugars influence blood pressure and serum lipids. The relation is independent of effects of sugars on body weight.”
The message in this study is important in that clearly there are some people (we all know someone like this) who manage to consume excess sugar without gaining weight. But the results of this interesting study would indicate that despite their lack of weight gain, their dietary habits, which include excess sugar consumption, are still quite likely to be increasing their risk for important health issues.
There are a number of explanations as to why this may be happening. First, we know that dietary sugar has a direct effect on the gut microbiome – the collection of more than 100trillion bacteria living within the intestines of each and every one of us. The changes to these bacteria brought on by a diet higher in sugar can actually affect the expression of our DNA and lead to the expression of genes that increase inflammation, a key mechanism in such issues as coronary artery disease, elevated blood pressure, detrimental changes in blood lipids, Alzheimer’s,diabetes and even cancer.
Second, more sugar in the diet translates to higher blood sugar levels. And elevated blood sugar can modify various proteins in the body through a process called glycation.When proteins are glycated, meaning that they are bound to this excess sugar, it compromises how proteins work in the body. Not a favorable situation for sure.
So even though you might not be gaining weight despite eating a higher sugar diet, please know that this type of diet will threaten health.
About Dr. Perlmutter: David Perlmutter, M.D., is an expert in the human microbiome, a board-certified neurologist, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, America’s brain-health expert and #1 New York Times best-selling author.
This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.