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Research Updates | Obesity / Overweight

Pathways and mechanisms linking dietary components to cardiometabolic disease

20 / 07 / 18

Finding: While energy from any food has the potential to increase risk for obesity or cardiometabolic disease, this consensus paper concludes there are some dietary components or patterns that can promote obesity and cardiometabolic disease by mechanisms other than caloric content. Emerging research suggests differences in response to diet are influenced by individual factors.

Summary: Twenty-two researchers who participated in a CrossFit Foundation Academic Conference were asked to address the question: are all calories equal with respect to effects on cardiometabolic disease and obesity? Their review of the evidence was published in Obesity Reviews. After acknowledging the complexity of the science and the many inter-related factors, the researchers reached consensus that included the following points.

  • Consuming omega-6 fatty acids reduces cardiometabolic risk compared to saturated fatty acids (SAFA), however differences exist between SAFA and the food matrix is important.
  • Consuming beverages sweetened with fructose, HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) or sucrose increases cardiometabolic risk compared to isocaloric amounts of starch, and more research is needed to compare sugar in SSB versus solid food versus refined or wholegrain starch.
  • There is insufficient evidence that a high carbohydrate diet affects weight gain or weight loss any differently than a high fat diet. There may be individual differences in susceptibility to weight gain when consuming diets high in refined carbohydrates/high glycemic load.
  • Aspartame does not promote weight gain in adults. More long-term intervention research is needed in other sweeteners including steviol glycosides, and in children.
  • Continued research could provide important insights for slowing the obesity epidemic including: how the high-sugar, high-fat Western palatable diet could be perturbing both sides of the energy balance equation through effects on brain reward systems and on the gut microbiome; and how susceptibility to weight gain may be affected by sugar or non-nutritive sweeteners during critical development periods from pre-conception to adulthood.

Citation: Stanhope KL, Goran MI, Bosy-Westphal A et al. Pathways and mechanisms linking dietary components to cardiometabolic disease: thinking beyond calories. Obesity reviews 2018