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PLoS One. 2017 Jul 19;12(7):e0179508. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179508. eCollection 2017.

Association between urinary biomarkers of total sugars intake and measures of obesity in a cross-sectional study.

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Department of Food & Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom.
School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, United States of America.
NatCen Social Research, London, United Kingdom.
Research Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, UCL, London, United Kingdom.
Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, University of Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth, United Kingdom.
Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Obesity is an important modifiable risk factor for chronic diseases. While there is increasing focus on the role of dietary sugars, there remains a paucity of data establishing the association between sugar intake and obesity in the general public. The objective of this study was to investigate associations of estimated sugar intake with odds for obesity in a representative sample of English adults. We used data from 434 participants of the 2005 Health Survey of England. Biomarkers for total sugar intake were measured in 24 h urine samples and used to estimate intake. Linear and logistic regression analyses were used to investigate associations between biomarker-based estimated intake and measures of obesity (body mass intake (BMI), waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio) and obesity risk, respectively. Estimated sugar intake was significantly associated with BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio; these associations remained significant after adjustment for estimated protein intake as a marker of non-sugar energy intake. Estimated sugar intake was also associated with increased odds for obesity based on BMI (OR 1.02; 95%CI 1.00-1.04 per 10g), waist-circumference (1.03; 1.01-1.05) and waist-to-hip ratio (1.04; 1.02-1.06); all OR estimates remained significant after adjusting for estimated protein intake. Our results strongly support positive associations between total sugar intake, measures of obesity and likelihood of being obese. It is the first time that such an association has been shown in a nationally-representative sample of the general population using a validated biomarker. This biomarker could be used to monitor the efficacy of public health interventions to reduce sugar intake.

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