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Clinicians 'should advise patients to cut down on sugar'

Recommending patients cut down on the amount of sugar they consume could help reduce their weight, research suggests.

If nurses and other medical professionals could convince people to make sure less than 10% of their energy needs are met by sugar, it could help tackle obesity, a report published on bmj.com claims.

The research shows that reducing sugar intake will lead to an average weight loss of 800g. But although this loss is small, having large amounts of sugar in the diet is more likely to lead to obesity as well as chronic diseases.

So far, the World Health Organization has called for the recommended sugar intake to be set at less than 10%, although it has not decided upon a maximum safe limit.

Academics at the University of Otago and the Riddet Institute in New Zealand looked at the results of 71 studies already carried out into the link between weight and sugar intake. They monitored 30 randomised controlled trials and 41 cohort studies and found that reducing the amount of sugar in the diet led to a weight loss of 800g, while consuming more sugar caused an average weight gain of 750g.

The researchers believe this is due to the effect of sugar on energy intake, as replacing sugars with alternative carbohydrates did not have any impact on body weight. The results were less clear among child participants, possibly as they are less likely to closely follow dietary advice.

But the study did find children who consumed large amounts of sugar-sweetened drinks were more likely to be overweight or obese than those who only drank small quantities.

The authors of the report said it was not surprising that cutting the amount of sugar in the diet only led to a small weight loss as obesity is caused by so many other factors. And, although they conceded the losses and gains could have possibly been caused by something else, they said the findings were consistent across the studies.

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