It’s no surprise that high sugar levels are linked with weight gain, or that restricting the amount of sugar in your diet leads to weight loss, but new research supports this commonly held knowledge — it’s not just the quantity of calories … it’s the quality.

Excess sugar in the diet is commonly linked to obesity and a higher risk of chronic diseases,such as heart disease and diabetes. The World Health Organization has recommended that intake of free sugars be limited to 10% of calories daily since 2003, but is currently reviewing that recommendation. Free sugars are sugars that have been added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer, or those naturally present in fruit juice, syrups, and honey.

Adults were told to lower or increase sugar intake for some the studies reviewed included in this research.  It is  important to note that the amount weight gain for those who added sugar was nearly the same as the weight loss of those who decreased their sugar intake, supporting the idea that it is calories from sugar that affects one’s weight.  There is also evidence that the  decrease or increase in weight increases over time.  The link between sugary drinks and being overweight in children is particularly striking. Children with the highest intake of sweetened drinks are 1.5 times more likely to be overweight or obese as children with the lowest intake. Researchers also looked at new evidence linking fructose – a sugar commonly found in prepared food items with insulin resistance, a known precursor of heart disease.

The final take of this review is that lessening the intake of  free sugars — particularly those found in pre-sweetened drinks and sodas — “is a high priority” for a healthier life. Sugars from whole fruits have not been linked with weight gain, so eat whole fruit and non-sweetened juices from whole fruit to satisfy that sweet tooth!