You might be reading food labels for info like calories, carbs, fat, and sodium already, but according to a recent study in the Journal of Hepatology, you may want to look at how many added sugars are in there, too.
Researchers in Switzerland recruited 94 healthy young men and had half consume a sweetened drink every day for seven weeks. The drinks contained either fructose, glucose, or sucrose—all common sweeteners that are added to a range of products, from cookies to salad dressing. The other half of the participants were a control group, who didn't have the beverages.
Overall, even though the first group didn't consume more calories than before the study, the results with fructose and sucrose—which is table sugar, a combination of fructose and glucose—were particularly striking. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now).
Within weeks, participants with those beverages showed twice as much fat production in the liver compared to those having glucose-only drinks. Also, this effect remained for more than 12 hours after the last drink. That means not only does added sugar double the amount of fat production, but it also keeps that process going long after your last sip or bite.
Keep in mind that added sugar is not the same as the natural sugar occurring in foods like fruits, grains, or dairy products, according to dietitian Martha Lawder, RDN, adjunct professor of nutrition at California State University, Sacramento.
In fact, Lawder says, fruit can be a great way to get your sweet fix and still stick to your weight loss or weight management goals, because all fruits are rich in micronutrients that help numerous systems in your body.
For example, she says mangoes may be high in natural sugar, but they're also packed with choline, an essential nutrient that's key for central nervous function. But added sugars don't have those nutrient advantages, she adds.
Even more problematic, the type of fat production highlighted in the recent study does more than add to your waistline, it boosts your risk of fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes, the researchers report.
"Limiting your consumption of added sugar is definitely an important strategy for better health," says Lawder. "Adding in options like whole foods, healthy fats, and quality protein can help to curb consumption of sugary foods."
For more, be sure to check out The 15 Best Low-Sugar Yogurts, Approved by Dietitians.