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Sugar Consumption Just One Bottle of Soft Drink Can Double Fat Production

Editor: Alexander Stark

Moderate amounts of sugar are already enough to boost fat production in the liver. This is shown in a study by researchers from Switzerland. According to the study, household sugar, which is widely used, is particularly predestined to promote the development of diabetes or fatty liver.

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Sweet drinks with lots of sugar crank up fat production in the liver — not just in the short term, but in the longer term. (Symbolic image)
Sweet drinks with lots of sugar crank up fat production in the liver — not just in the short term, but in the longer term. (Symbolic image)
(Source: Public Domaini, InspiredImages / Pixabay )

Zurich/Switzerland — Sugar is added to numerous foods. On average, every German consumes more than 90 grams of it per day. That corresponds to about two bars of dark chocolate. The high calorie content of sugar in particular promotes overweight and obesity - and the corresponding secondary diseases.

Even comparatively small amounts of sugar can be harmful to health if consumed regularly and over a long period of time. This is confirmed by a recent study by researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) and the University Hospital Zurich (USZ).

Comparison of Three Types of Sugars

Compared to previous studies, which mainly examined the consumption of very high amounts of sugar, their results show that even moderate amounts lead to a change in the metabolism of test participants. “Eighty grams of sugar daily, which is equivalent to about 0,8 liters of a normal soft drink, boosts fat production in the liver. And the overactive fat production continues for a longer period of time, even if no more sugar is consumed,” says study leader Philipp Gerber of the Department of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Clinical Nutrition.

Ninety-four healthy young men took part in the study. Every day for a period of seven weeks, they consumed a drink sweetened with different types of sugar, while the control group did not. The drinks contained either fructose, glucose or sucrose (table sugar which is a combination of fructose and glucose). The researchers then used tracers (labeled substances that can be traced as they move through the body) to analyze the effect of the sugary drinks on the lipid metabolism.

Fructose and Sucrose Double Fat Production Beyond Food Intake

Overall, the participants did not consume more calories than before the study, as the sugary drink increased satiety and they therefore reduced their calorie intake from other sources. Nevertheless, the researchers observed that fructose has a negative effect: “The body’s own fat production in the liver was twice as high in the fructose group as in the glucose group or the control group — and this was still the case more than twelve hours after the last meal or sugar consumption,” says Gerber. Particularly surprising was that the sugar we most commonly consume, sucrose, boosted fat synthesis slightly more than the same amount of fructose. Until now, it was thought that fructose was most likely to cause such changes.

Increased fat production in the liver is a crucial first step in the development of widespread diseases such as fatty liver or type 2 diabetes. From a health perspective, the World Health Organization therefore recommends limiting daily sugar consumption to around 50 grams or, better, just 25 grams. In everyday life, most people are still far from this recommendation. However, the new research findings provide further scientific evidence in favor of lower sugar consumption as recommended by the WHO.

Original Publication: Bettina Geidl-Flueck, Michel Hochuli, Ágota Németh, Anita Eberl, Nina Derron, Harald C. Köfeler, Luc Tappy, Kaspar Berneis, Giatgen A. Spinas, Philipp A. Gerber: Fructose- and sucrose- but not glucose-sweetened beverages promote hepatic de novo lipogenesis: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Hepatology. 5 March 2021. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhep.2021.02.027

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