High-fat foods are often the primary target when fighting obesity, but sugar-laden “diet” foods could be contributing to unwanted weight gain as well, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.
Researchers found that rats fed a diet high in sugar but low in fat — meant to imitate many popular diet foods — increased body fat mass when compared to rats fed a balanced rodent diet. The high-sugar diet induced a host of other problems, including liver damage and brain inflammation.
“Most so-called diet products containing low or no fat have an increased amount of sugar and are camouflaged under fancy names, giving the impression that they are healthy, but the reality is that those foods may damage the liver and lead to obesity as well,” said the study’s principal investigator, Krzysztof Czaja, an associate professor of veterinary biosciences and diagnostic imaging in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“What’s really troubling in our findings is that the rats consuming high-sugar, low-fat diets didn’t consume significantly more calories than the rats fed a balanced diet,” Czaja said. “Our research shows that in rats fed a low-fat, high-sugar diet, the efficiency of generating body fat is more than twice as high — in other words, rats consuming low-fat high-sugar diets need less than half the number of calories to generate the same amount of body fat.”
Sen, T., Cawthon, C. R., Ihde, B. T., Hajnal, A., DiLorenzo, P. M., Claire, B., & Czaja, K. (2017). Diet-driven microbiota dysbiosis is associated with vagal remodeling and obesity. Physiology & Behavior, 173, 305-317. DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.02.027
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