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Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2016 Jul;19(4):303-9. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000289.

Sugar and metabolic health: is there still a debate?

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aDepartment of Nutritional Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey bSchool of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.



There is considerable political and public awareness of new recommendations to reduce sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages in our diets. It is therefore timely to review the most recent changes in guidelines, with a focus on evidence for metabolic health, recent research in the area and gaps in our knowledge.


Sufficient evidence links a high intake of sugar to dental caries and obesity, and high intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages in particular to increased risk of type 2 diabetes. This has led to the updating of dietary recommendations related to added sugars in the diet. The effects of specific sugars at usual intakes as part of an isoenergetic diet are less clear. The glycaemic response to food is complex and mediated by many factors, but sugar intake is not necessarily the major component.


There are many challenges faced by healthcare professionals and government bodies in order to improve the health of individuals and nations through evidence-based diets. Sufficiently powered long-term mechanistic studies are still required to provide evidence for the effects of reducing dietary sugars on metabolic health. However, there are many challenges for research scientists in the implementation of these studies.

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