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Sugar - should you give it up when you lose weight?

I encounter many stereotypes on a daily basis, one of them - sugar is dangerous to health, it must be given up! So what exactly is the role of sugar in the diet and its role in the weight loss process?

Types of sugar

At the beginning I will tell you a little bit about the types of sugars so that you have clear terminology when searching for information.

So, the most popular sugars we find every day are:

  • Ordinary table sugar (50% fructose and 50% glucose);
  • High fructose corn syrup (AFKS), which is increasingly used, for example, in sweetened beverages, including 'packet juices', nectars, etc. (42% fructose, 53% glucose and 5% other sugars);
  • Honey (38% fructose, 31% glucose, 7% maltose, 24% other sugars). Of course, there are other good substances in honey, but this time we focus on sugar;
  • Maple syrup (95% sucrose or edible sugar, 4% glucose and 1% fructose);
  • Agave syrup (47% fructose, 16% glucose and 37% other sugars). The final product is usually very reminiscent of the original agave.
  • Sugar alcohols such as xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol, which are neither sugars nor alcohol, but remain very popular as sweeteners that are completely absorbed by the small intestine, so there is no caloric effect, but they often cause side effects. effects such as bloating and diarrhea.

In principle, a distinction is made between simple sugars or monosaccharides (for example: glucose and fructose). When 'plain sugar' is combined with another sugar, it becomes a disaccharide (consisting of 2 sugars). When a compound is made up of 3 or more sugars, they are called polysaccharides. The more complex the sugar, the more difficult it is to break down, but in the end all, even the most complex sugars, become the simple sugars that give us energy.

There are many different combinations of sugars in nature. The fruit contains simple sugar - fructose. Milk is more complicated - lactose. What we are used to calling sugar and what is offered in grocery stores under this name is sucrose (glucose + fructose).


Should sugar be given up when you lose weight?

Both yes and no -😊

The problem with sugar is that the products that contain it can cause unplanned food intake, which means that the amount of calories you need per day is exceeded, which in turn means that the excess will most likely be turned into fat - a bite of a piece of chocolate and realized I can't stop. until I've eaten everything - familiar, right? In this way, with a variety of snacks during the day you can collect a lot of extra calories and as a result - as if I do not eat anything, but the weight grows….

Sugar in itself is not harmful, but you have to keep track of what and how much we eat. Often we are not even aware of how much sugar and therefore calories we take in. A good example is lemonade and especially packet juices - the juices are healthy and should be drunk, but read the list of nutrients on the packaging…. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against juices, just against the uncontrolled drinking of liquid calories -😊


Stereotypes about the dangers of sugar for weight loss

Most people just want to lose weight - they don't have time to go into physiological processes and go into scientific research about the effects of this or other foods on our bodies. And - stereotypes are beginning to spread, first of all spread by friends and acquaintances, who in turn have read about it and heard about it. As a rule, this stereotype is based on outdated theories or simply on personal fantasies. However, it is worth looking at objective sources, at least superficially, because everything turns out to be easier than ever.


Studies on the effects of sugar on weight loss

Thus, based on the results of a systematic study, both randomized and controlled - a total of about 70 publications on the effects of sugar on body weight changes in children and adults, we can conclude that in people who do not strictly control food intake, sugar intake is the main cause of weight gain both directly and in the form of sweet drinks). An increase in the amount of sugar in the diet causes an increase in body weight, a decrease - a decrease in weight.

The results of the study clearly show that the effect of sugar on body weight is directly related to the amount of calories ingested by sugar - if you consume more calories than the body needs, the weight increases, if less.

The change in weight has nothing to do with the biochemical and physiological properties of simple sugar metabolism in our body. This conclusion is confirmed by the results of several studies in which it was found that the replacement of simple sugars with other carbohydrates (especially those with a lower glycemic index) on an isocaloric background (the same amount of calories) does not lead to a change in body weight.


Glycemic index and sugar

Exclusion of sugar during weight loss is often justified by its high risk glycemic index (GI). It is believed that "fast carbohydrates" are converted into fat and not used to supply the body with energy. Not only is there no scientific evidence for such a view, it does not even have a simple logic - if the cells did not use sugars in the conditions of calorie (energy) deficiency, then the body would receive even less energy, which would mean that energy shortages should be further compensated from internal reserves, incl. . fat and weight loss should be even faster.

In fact, scientists have already ended the controversy over carbohydrates The effect of GI on weight loss. The study “The role of glycemic index and glycemic load in body weight, diabetes and cardiovascular disease” (including 73 randomized controlled trials) concludes: aimed at weight loss ”. And: “Controlled nutrition studies show that changes in the GI of carbohydrates in the diet do not affect the resulting changes in body weight. “.


Effects of fast and slow carbohydrates on lipogenesis

It is not clear where the idea that "fast carbohydrates" are converted into fat is more likely than "slow", as scientific studies do not suggest.

A special scientific conference was dedicated to the topic “Relationship of the Glycemic Index to Human Lipogenesis”, which did not reveal significant differences in the extent of fat synthesis from carbohydrates due to the use of polysaccharides (especially starch). Mono- and disaccharides have not been shown to show a relationship between the glycemic index of carbohydrates absorbed during a diet and its ability to activate lipogenesis (fat formation). 


Should sugar be limited when losing weight?

Does the above mean that you should not worry about your sugar intake during a weight loss diet? No. We must not forget that the diet is not only a certain amount of calories and nutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) in the diet, but also a tactic for organizing nutrition, the aim of which is more or less comfortable to maintain energy deficiency. The feeling of hunger and lack of satiety becomes an insurmountable obstacle for many to lose weight. Therefore, you need to not only be able to balance nutrients with a certain calorie deficit, but to do so so that you feel fed and reducing sugar can be part of this fighting tactic.

For example, sweetened beverages do not cause a feeling of satiety and this often leads to their consumption in large quantities. Solid foods that contain sugar are also very often characterized by high energy density (eg biscuits, ice cream, chocolate), which means that it is much easier for people who consume such foods to consume too many calories compared to high-calorie foods.

In addition, under the conditions of limited food consumption, the amount of vital substances in the body decreases: vitamins, minerals, trace elements, dietary fiber, etc. Sugar gives us "fast energy", but the more we consume it, the more we are forced to exclude other sources of carbohydrates, incl. high in nutrition, such as whole grains, legumes, fruit…

It's simple - consuming sugar as such does not prevent you from losing weight. However, if it is too much, it will turn into fat. Observe moderation and read the composition of the products on the packaging.



'Dietary sugars and body weight': a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and cohort studies. Liza Te Morenga, Simonete Malarda, Jim Mann. BMJ 2013.

"Correspondence of glycemic index and glycemic load to body weight, diabetes and cardiovascular disease". Sonia Vega-Lopez, Bernard J. Wens and Joanna L. Slavin. October 2018.

"Relationship of glycemic index to human lipogenesis". Park, EJ 2002.

"Energy of Obesity: Weight Regulation and the Effects of Diet". Hall KD, Guo J. 2017.

"Energy consumption and body composition changes after an isocaloric ketogenic diet in overweight and obese men". Hall KD, Chen KY, Guo J, Lam YY, Leibel RL, Mayer LE, Reitman ML, Rosenbaum M, Smith SR, Walsh BT, Ravussin E. Am J Clin Nutr. August 2016


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