What effect does sugar have on weight loss?

A friend and I are having a big argument over this:

If a person eats say, 1300 calories a day, 400 of them being sugar related, will their weight loss efforts show any different results than those of an identical person eating the same amount of calories with only 50-100 coming from sugar, assuming both are getting a decent amount of excersize (400 calories spent on running 5 miles, for an example). This isn’t supposed to be an IMHO. Is there a factual difference, meaning does sugar have an effect on the body that healthier foods don’t?

At 1300 calories a day, it won’t matter, because that’s too low for an adult. At a more reasonable intake level, it won’t make any appreciable difference unless the person eating 100g sugar/day sucks it all down at once.

There’s no difference between sugar calories and any other, unless you have a disease that is sugar-related, like diabetes.

The distinction is that sugar comprises “empty calories.” That is, there is no nutritional value in sugar beyond the pure energy spike. If you are replacing 300 of 1300 or about one-quarter of your diet with foods that provide a wider range of nutrients - some proteins, fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals - then in the long term you will certainly be healthier.

Too much sugar in a severe diet, like 1300 calories a day, is essentially starvation. The weight lost may or may not be different - this would depend entirely on what you substituted for the sugar in those 300 calories - but the health aspects would be significant. And the way the body burned its supplies of fat and then muscle to compensate would affect both weight and health.

Here are research results for that very question. The answer they achieved was that even unusually high (43% of calories) sugar levels didn’t effect weight loss.

What Exapno Mapcase said. The source of your calories doesn’t primarily impact your weight loss but your health.

EM’s point is key. If the body can’t get it from food it’s going to be pulling it (as best it can) from you, and being mineral and vitamin deficient can have all sorts of nasty physiological effects.

A sugar calorie is a calorie.

Now, if you’re trying to lose weight, there does seem to be a few tiny differences:

  1. Fructose is a tad sweeter than sucrose so you can use a tad less, thus less calories.

  2. High-fructose corn syrup, OTOH, does not seem to fill the “sweet tooth” as well as sucrose, thus you consume more, thus more calories. I haven’t seen a solid study on this, but would like to.

  3. There have been dudes who claim that a couple of tablespoons of plain sugar will quell your sugar cravings (and also a shot-glass of olive oil once a day will fill your fat cravings) thus doing this before mealtimes will help you lose weight.

  4. For some types of odd sports, such as long distane running, there’s this thing called 'carbo-loading" which can help give an edge.

None of these break any fundamental rules of physics or how you body burns calories. #2 & #3 are based upon cravings, not calories.

I have doubts about them all, but have tried the sugar and olive oil idea, and it sure cuts my appetite.

[slightly off-topic]

You know, the “calorie source doesn’t matter” has always been the common sense approach (especially when dealing with rabid Akins devotees). But there was a recent study with monkeys that showed that trans fats (such a partially hyprogenated vegetable oils, very often found in snack foods) do make a difference. A diet high in trans fat but equal in calories to the control diet led to higher body weight and redistribution of fat in the abdomen.

Slightly off-topis but I’ve been waiting for a thread to mention it in. I think it could explain a lot of the problems with American nutrition.

That’s why I used the qualifier “primarily”. The calorie sources do matter, but not anywhere near as much as people believe. They have a much greater impact on your health than on your weight.

Yeah, and that’s why I said “And the way the body burned its supplies of fat and then muscle to compensate would affect both weight and health.”

In fact, nobody at all said that “calories don’t matter.”

I think the main problem in the Original Post is that it based on an outmoded simplistic view of how nutrition works. Dr John Berardi has recently published an article illustrating the problem.

A New View of Energy Balance

It is incredibly simplistic to believe that your body processes all foods the same way and if you think “a calorie is a calorie” then you’re fooling yourself. Ever hear of Glycemic Index? Any idea of the effects that your levels of insulin have on fat storage? Ever read about the differences in the metabolism of fructose vs. sucrose? Any idea of the differences in metabolism of nutrients between being in starvation response and not? There is a lot more to the picture than what has been mentioned so far.

Your body composition is a result of your lifestyle and pretending that it can be understood with a few simplistic notions is a best silly and at worse detrimental to your health.

And I didn’t say “calories don’t matter” either. And I’m not arguing any points made in this thread. In the past tho’, there hasn’t been research that has shown that what you eat doesn’t make much difference with weight loss, only how much you eat. Glycemic Index research is contradictory and has been misinterpreted by many. Conventional wisdom is that the total number of calories consumed is more impotant than the composition of those calories (with reqard to weight loss, not overall health).

This is one of the first studies I’ve seen that proves that certain foods can contribute to weight gain in excess of what would be predicted based on the food’s calorie content. And, as I said, it’s off topic as it doesn’t concern sugar, but trans fats but I did think it was interesting.