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Research Updates | Obesity / Overweight

Sugar-fat seesaw: A systematic review of the evidence

21 / 12 / 14

Sadler et al examined the relationships between intake of sugars and fats from the diet expressed as percentage of total energy (%E) and in absolute terms. This was done to determine if in practice, simultaneous population reductions in both sugar and fat intake are likely to be successful.

The systematic review was of observational and intervention trial data. The observation data looked at the association between total sugars and total fats, sugar sub-types and total fat and total sugars and types of fats, sugars and other macronutrients or alcohol. The intervention data examined increases/decreases of sugar/fat and the relationship between sugar and fat intakes.

The review confirms the existence of a fat-sugar seesaw on a %E basis, that if one increases, the other decreases. This implies that conforming to %E guidelines to reduce both fat and sugar may be difficult in practice. In fact the absolute intakes may be more important at an individual level.

Limitations: The quality of the dietary analysis within studies makes it difficult to compare studies. Due to different sugar sub-types and fatty-acids, different classification of sugars and different measures to assess contribution of food groups to intakes of sugars and fat.