While it is no secret that there are good calories as well as bad calories, turns out, in the bad category, there are variations too. According to the University of California, Davis, sugar-sweetened beverages play a unique role in chronic health problems.
Calories from any food have the potential to increase the risk of obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases. The disease risk increases even when the beverages are consumed within diets that do not result in weight gain. Twenty-two researchers explored whether all calories are equal with regards to effects on cardiometabolic disease and obesity. The study provided an extensive review of the current science on diets that can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and Type II diabetes.
“What’s new is that this is an impressive group of scientists with vast experience in nutrition and metabolism agreeing with the conclusion that sugar-sweetened beverages increase cardiometabolic risk factors compared to equal amounts of starch,” said lead author Kimber Stanhope. Another interesting point of consensus among researchers was the role of the sugar substitute aspartame.
The authors agreed that aspartame does not promote weight gain in adults. Stanhope said this might come as a surprise to most people. “If you go on the internet and look up aspartame, the layperson would be convinced that aspartame is going to make them fat, but it’s not,” said Stanhope. “The long and short of it is that no human studies on noncaloric sweeteners show weight gain.”
The authors also agreed that consumption of polyunsaturated (n-6) fats, such as those found in some vegetable oils, seeds and nuts, lowers disease risk when compared with equal amounts of saturated fats. However, that conclusion comes with a caveat. Dairy foods such as cheese and yogurts, which can be high in saturated fats, have been associated with reduced cardiometabolic risk.
The paper reviewed the significant challenges involved in conducting and interpreting nutrition research. “We have a long way to go to get precise answers on a lot of different nutrition issues,” said Stanhope. “Nevertheless, we all agree that a healthy diet pattern consisting of minimally processed whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats promotes health compared with the refined and palatable typical Western diet pattern.”