A new Australian study has found that sugar consumption may not be to blame for the worldwide obesity epidemic.
Dr Alan Barclay, who is addressing the Dietitians Association of Australia’s (DAA) National Conference in Melbourne this week, and co-researcher Alicia Sim, looked at the relationship between total fructose (a type of sugar) consumption and rates of overweight and obesity in Australia since the early 1970s. They also gathered similar data for the United Kingdom and Japan.
According to Dr Barclay, consumption of fructose has decreased by nearly 20 per cent in Australia since the early 1970s, while overweight and obesity has doubled.
“Much to everyone’s surprise, it looks as if, unlike in the US, sugar is not the culprit here – or in the UK or Japan,” said Dr Barclay.
Some research has suggested fructose promotes fat production in the body, while other studies report it tricks people into thinking they are hungrier than they really are. But Dr Barclay said many of these studies have only been done in animals, and those animals have usually been fed very large amounts of fructose – far more than the average Australian would typically consume.
Obesity has become a major health problem in Australia and other developed countries. Sixty two per cent, or more than 13 million Australian adults, are currently overweight or obese and one in four children carry too much weight for their height.
DAA Spokesperson and Accredited Practising Dietitian Lisa Renn said Australians need to focus on eating fewer kilojoules and watching portion sizes.
“We gain weight when we eat more energy, or kilojoules, than we use up through exercise or activity. Obesity isn’t caused by any one food alone – you’ll gain weight by eating too much of any food. But it’s wise to still only eat moderate amounts of those foods that are low in nutrition, but high in added sugar,” she said.