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Drink less sugar lose more weight

Drink less sugar, lose more weight

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Could the kilojoules we consume from drinks be more fattening than the kilojoules eaten from food? Online weight loss coach Andrew Cate looks at the latest research.

Sugar sweetened drinks and weight control
The percentage of kilojoules people consume from sugar sweetened beverages has increased dramatically in the United States in recent years, reaching 21% in 2002. Consuming up to a fifth of your daily energy intake in liquid kilojoules is associated with health problems, including an increased risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

It wouldn't be surprising to also see some Australians and New Zealanders drinking liquid kilojoules at a level which can impact on their weight. High sugar drinks include:

  • soft drink
  • fruit juice
  • fruit juice drinks
  • sweetened coffee and tea
  • sweetened milk
  • sports drinks
  • energy drinks
  • cordial
  • alcohol

Sugar sweetened beverages are high in kilojoules, but do little to satisfy your appetite. In other words, you won’t eat less because you’ve had one of these drinks, making the extra kilojoules very hard to burn off. Cutting out sugar sweetened beverages may well help people to lose weight, or at least prevent weight gain.

The research
study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the impact of replacing two servings a day of high kilojoule beverages with either water or diet beverages over a six month period. It was anticipated this would reduce their kilojoule intake by approximately 800 kilojoules per day. Subjects were assessed for their weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure and fasting blood prior to the intervention. At the end of the study period, the water and diet beverage drinkers had lost approximately two kilograms. A significant reduction in waist circumference and systolic blood pressure was also found in both groups. The researchers noted that diet beverages may promote better adherence because of the availability of different flavours, but they may be associated with some other health risks. Only the water drinkers showed a significant improvement in fasting blood glucose levels. The researchers commented that the results were encouraging because the weight loss (while small) was achieved by only making one small lifestyle change. Changing your intake of sugar sweetened beverages was thought to be helpful because it's something people tend to have every day, while food can be more intermittent.

How to cut back on sugar sweetened drinks
Cutting back or eliminating sugar sweetened drinks will reduce your kilojoule intake. It's one simple lifestyle strategy that can help with weight loss and the prevention of weight gain while also supporting your cardiovascular health. Cut back on sugar sweetened beverages by:

  • Choose water over high sugar beverages such as fruit juice, soft drink, energy drinks, sports drinks and cordial.
  • Cut back or eliminate the amount of sugar you add to hot drinks, such as black tea, green tea,  coffee and hot chocolate
  • If you get sick of plain water, add a dash of lemon or lime juice. Artificially sweetened beverages are also an option, but they may be associated with other health risks so drink in moderation.
  • Be patients with your taste buds as they get used to a lower level of sugar in your drinks. It may take a little time to re-train your palate.
  • Always have a water bottle close at hand, at your desk, in your gym bag, in your car, and in the fridge.
  • If you're cutting back on alcohol, don't fall into the trap of replacing it with fruit juice or soft drink. Have plain water, or at least have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks.

References available on request

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This should be the first advice given to anyone who wants to feel better, look better and maintain good body composition. We don't need sugar, but once our body gets the taste it's hard not to want more.

Artificial sugars are not any better, although there are less calories anything sweet also leaves us wanting more, and they haven't been around long enough to understand if they are truly safe.

If we think about why we don't just drink water, it's because we have pretty cushy lifestyles that include well marketed (and bad for us) drinks available cheaper than a bottle of water. If lived somewhere less well off we'd all be wishing for clean water, and other drinks would (and should) be a treat.

Anonymous
Anonymous 24 Jun 2013