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New study reviews empty calories theory

It has been suggested that a high sugar diet may result in lower intake of vitamins and minerals (micronutrients). However, a new systematic review, published in the May issue of the British Journal of Nutrition found that the available evidence was too inconsistent and insufficient to be able to draw definitive conclusions that sugar intake adversely influenced micronutrient intake.

Some studies in the past had suggested that foods containing added sugars were consumed at the expense of foods containing greater amounts of micronutrients; so that the more added sugar in the diet, the lower the intake of necessary vitamins and minerals. However, in a review of the relevant literature published this month, Dr Rennie and colleagues at the University of Ulster questions this viewpoint, stating that, while some studies show that intake of certain micronutrients appears to decrease with added sugar in the diet, other studies show that increased amounts of added sugar are associated with an increased intake of vitamins and minerals.

The review looked at fifteen studies which assessed associations between various populations’ consumption of added sugar and their consumption of a range of micronutrients, in relation to recommended daily amounts. The researchers from the University of Ulster noted that, for all of the micronutrients and age groups investigated in the studies, there were inconsistent associations between the reported added sugar intakes in the diet, and their intake of foods containing micronutrients. ‘It seems that no firm conclusions can be reached, across age groups or between men and women” said Dr Rennie, adding ‘there isn’t enough evidence to conclude that added sugar intake affects the intake of micronutrients in any population’. ‘The types of foods eaten could affect any observed associations between added sugar and micronutrient intakes and may explain the inconsistencies.’

Although this review concludes that there is no clear evidence that foods with added sugars are replacing foods containing vitamins and minerals in our diets, further research is needed to see whether specific food items negatively impact on our intake of micronutrients, and by how much. This is important from a public health point of view, as recommendations for food choices can then be made, which are easier to understand. In addition, other macronutrient components of the diet might also be investigated to see if these are negatively associated with micronutrient intake.

Richard Cottrell | alfa
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