Added sugars have little or no substantive effect on diet quality

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Added sugars have little or no substantive effect on diet quality, according to a new study by the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (CFNP) at Virginia Tech.

Released in the October issue of the Journal of Nutrition, the study refutes analyses in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Institute of Medicine (IOM) draft report on Dietary References Intakes stating that consumption of added sugars "displaces" essential vitamins and minerals in the diet. This "nutrient displacement hypothesis" is being used in part to justify the guidance on carbohydrates in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines issued jointly by the Departments of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Agriculture (USDA).

"Since the dietary guidelines are relying heavily on what we believe to be a flawed interpretation of the data by the IOM, our study is a very important analysis for the nutrition community as a whole, and particularly for nutrition policy," said Maureen Storey, director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, who coauthored the study with Richard Forshee, research assistant professor at the CFNP.

In the CFNP study that was supported in part by an unrestricted gift from the Sugar Association, Inc., Forshee and Storey used the same data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (NHANES III) that the IOM used in its report but applied an alternative statistical approach. The authors used multiple regression to partition total energy into energy from added sugars and energy from other sources. This approach produced very different results than IOM's original analysis.

"Whereas the IOM reported that increasing added sugars will decrease intakes of some micronutrients, our results showed that the association of energy from added sugars with micronutrient intake was inconsistent and small," Storey said. "Energy from other sources had a much stronger and consistent association with micronutrient intake.

"Our re-analysis of the data affirms that individuals need to consume a balanced and varied diet that meets their nutritional needs and allows them to maintain a healthy weight. What our paper really shows is that the more calories (energy) that people consume, the more likely they are to get the essential vitamins and minerals they need. That means it is even more important to increase physical activity so that those calories are burned off to prevent weight gain," she said.

The Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (CFNP) is an independent research and education center affiliated with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and is located in Alexandria, Virginia. The mission of CFNP is to advance rational, science-based food and nutrition policy. Through its research, outreach and teaching programs, CFNP examines complex and often contentious issues facing government policymakers, regulators, agribusinesses, and food manufacturers. CFNP is recognized as a center of excellence in food and nutrition policy by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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