Eating less sugar can improve children’s health in less than two weeks, according to a new study conducted jointly by Vallejo’s Touro University California and UC San Francisco, officials of both institutions announced this week.
Reducing consumption of added sugar, even without reducing calories or losing weight, can reverse “a cluster of chronic metabolic diseases, including high cholesterol and blood pressure,” in children in as little as 10 days, the study found.
The chronic conditions impacted by this also include high blood glucose levels and excess body fat around the waist. Occurring together, they represent increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, the study’s authors said.
Other diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes — disorders previously unknown in the pediatric population –now occur in children.
The paper will appear online on Oct. 27, and in the February 2016 issue of the Journal Obesity, they said.
“I have never seen results as striking or significant in our human studies; after only nine days of fructose restriction, the results are dramatic and consistent from subject to subject,” said Jean-Marc Schwarz, of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Touro University California and the paper’s senior author. “These findings support the idea that it is essential for parents to evaluate sugar intake and to be mindful of the health effects of what their children are consuming.”
Lead author and pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, said the study proves it’s not sugar’s calories that are so bad for you.
“This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful … because it’s sugar,” he said. “This internally controlled intervention study is a solid indication that sugar contributes to metabolic syndrome and is the strongest evidence to date that the negative effects of sugar are not because of calories or obesity.”
Study participants were identified through UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco’s Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health Clinic, the authors said. Recruitment was limited to Latino and African-American youth because of their higher risk for certain metabolic syndrome-related conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
The study tested 43 obese children between 9 and 18 with at least one other chronic metabolic disorder, by removing sugar, but maintaining calorie levels.
“They told us it felt like so much more food, even though they were consuming the same number of calories as before, just with significantly less sugar. Some said we were overwhelming them with food,” Schwarz said.
After just nine days on the sugar-restricted diet, virtually every aspect of the participants’ metabolic health improved, without change in weight, the authors said.
“This study demonstrates that ‘a calorie is not a calorie.’ The source of the calories determines where in the body they go. Sugar calories are the worst, because they turn to fat in the liver, driving insulin resistance, and driving the risk for diabetes, heart, and liver disease,” Lustig said. “This has enormous implications for the food industry, chronic disease, and health care costs.”
Study funding came from the National Institutes of Health, UCSF Clinical Translational Science Institute and Touro University.
Contact Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824. —— (c)2015 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.) Visit Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.) at www.timesheraldonline.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. AMX-2015-10-29T00:01:00-04:00