12 January - 20 June 2016

Sugar-fat seesaw

17 July 13

A literature review of a wide range of studies that have examined sugar and fat consumption, concludes that attempts to reduce both sugar and fat intake in the general population are likely to be unsuccessful. The study confirmed previous findings that there is a strong and consistent inverse association between total sugars and total fat intakes expressed as percentage energy i.e low fat intake is usually associated with high sugar intake and vice versa. This association has been termed the ‘sugar-fat seesaw’.  The review, published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition also sought to question whether the sugar/fat relationship is influenced by any particular type of dietary sugars, e.g. extrinsic sugars, whether the relationship is applicable across the general population, if there is any evidence of a threshold effect, if the relationship is influenced by any particular type of fatty acid, if there is a relationship between sugars and other macronutrients, and if there is any influence of particular food groups. The authors conclude that evidence for an inverse relationship between percentage energy from fat and extrinsic sugars was weaker and less consistent than for fat and total sugars. Reciprocal relationships were also observed for sugar-saturated fat, sugar-protein, sugar-alcohol and sugar-starch expressed as percentage energy. The authors argue for more work to understand the relationship between fat and sugar intake and these other sources of energy.

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