Some Calories More Harmful Than Others

Categories: Research Dissemination


Type: News

Source: Obesity Reviews

Date Published: 05/15/2018

Academic Position Paper Concludes:
Some Calories More Harmful than Others

“Beyond Calories” analysis finds unanimity among researchers on unique role sugar-sweetened beverages play in chronic health problems, despite challenges in current landscape of nutrition research

ORI senior scientist Eric Stice, Ph.D, joined twenty-one other nutrition researchers in publishing a comprehensive review of the current challenging landscape of nutrition research, including a notable warning that consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages increases cardio-metabolic risk factors.

The findings, published in Obesity Reviews are the result of a July 2017 academic conference hosted by the CrossFit Foundation. The conference convened the group of international nutrition scientists and researchers to review the current scientific record and the specific dietary components that lead to cardio-metabolic factors associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type-2 diabetes, independent of caloric intake.

While the paper reviews the significant challenges involved in conducting and interpreting nutrition research—detailing the historically conflicting expert opinions regarding the health effects of food components such as fat, sugar, and carbohydrate—the participants did arrive at one conclusion: the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages clearly increases risk factors for chronic diseases such cardiovascular disease, and type-2 diabetes, even compared with calorically-equal amounts of starch.

This finding and unanimity of scientific experts is notable because it undercuts the beverage industry’s focus on balancing calorie consumption with calorie expenditure. The industry’s “energy balance” argument falsely assures the consumer that sugar consumption is not uniquely harmful in its effect on obesity and cardiometabolic disease—claiming that, like any food, added sugar can fit into a healthy diet as long as the excess calories are burned through increased physical activity.

However, the review of the evidence encapsulated within the “Beyond Calories” position paper confirms that some calories are more harmful than others in terms of their cardiometabolic effect, and that a healthy diet is about more than “energy balance.” The review summarizes evidence that risk factors even increase when sugars are consumed within diets that do not result in weight gain.