Focusing just on sugar intake to fight global obesity too narrow says new research

Eating a poor diet which is high in junk food, French fries, and soda appears to be linked to an increased risk of mental illness.

A new UK study has concluded that as well as an reducing sugar intake, there also needs to be a focus on cutting calories in general, including those from fat, in order to tackle the rising global levels of obesity.

The large-scale study, published on Wednesday in the International Journal of Epidemiology, was carried out by scientists from the University of Glasgow, who looked at data from 132,479 people from across the UK.

Participants were asked to complete online diet questionnaires as well as have their body measurements taken, with 66% of the men and 52% of the women taking part in the study classed as overweight or obese.

After analyzing the results the team found that the strongest predictors of body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity) were overall calories consumed and calories from fat.

In addition, the researchers found significant results showing that despite the current focus on sugar, overweight/obese people obtained a higher proportion of their calories from fat, but a lower proportion from sugar, when compared to the normal weight participants.

Although sugar and sugar-laden products can significantly increase calorie intake, and with minimal nutritional benefit, the researchers now believe that the focus should be on cutting overall calories, including those from fat, and not just those from sugar.

"People who are overweight and obese consume more calories than those who are normal weight. But they consume a smaller proportion of these calories from sugar and a larger proportion from fat," commented co-lead author of the study Dr Jason Gill, "Thus it is important not to simply focus on reducing sugar intake; we need to emphasize reductions in fat intake as well."

Previous research has also suggested that cutting calories by reducing one type of food simply leads individuals to replace it by eating more of another type of food, called the "sugar-fat seesaw" with co-lead author Jill Pell also adding that, "The critical message is that people need to reduce their overall calories. If focusing attention on sugar results in people compensating by eating more crisps then we will fail to combat obesity."