Letters Dietary sugars and body weight

Conclusions of review of dietary sugars and body weight are unwarranted

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f1238 (Published 13 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1238
  1. R C Cottrell, director-general1,
  2. Anna Wittekind, assistant director1
  1. 1World Sugar Research Organisation, London SW1V 3LX, UK
  1. rcottrell{at}wsro.org

Te Morenga and colleagues’ review sheds some light on the confused literature regarding dietary sugars and body weight.1 The authors acknowledge that the small change in body weight (~0.8 kg) attributed to alterations in sugar intake in the intervention trials cited probably results from changes in energy intake, rather than some characteristic unique to sugars.

This meta-analysis does not allow conclusions to be drawn specifically for sugar consumption for several reasons. Some of the included studies involved changes in foods containing sugars, so the results are confounded by changes in other energy containing nutrients. The authors seem to have used incorrect data from several studies, notably one large long term trial that showed a fall in body weight with a diet of 30% of calories from sugars compared with the control diet.2

The heterogeneity of the interventions, the absence of a dose-response, and the admitted publication bias in the studies available for the meta-analysis further reduce confidence in the authors’ conclusions. This study provides no support for the controversial suggestion that the average population intake of “free sugars” should be limited to 10% of food energy. Nor does it suggest that a revision is needed of any of the expert reviews that have concluded that no particular level of added or total sugar intake is likely to increase energy intake or obesity risk. Sugars have no special role in body weight control other than as one of many sources of energy.3 4 5


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1238


  • Competing interests: The authors work for the World Sugar Research Organisation: a non-profit organisation supported by the sugar industry.


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