There’s spirited debate over what makes children fat, but sugar is the main culprit: Writing in the journal Obesity, researchers at UCSF say they drastically improved health at a children’s obesity clinic by making one dietary tweak, which was taking away everything with added sugar and, in a seemingly zero-sum move, inviting kids to eat pizza, chips, and other “starchy processed foods” instead.
Patients only made the change for nine days, but even in that short amount of a time — and while still consuming a ton of processed food — they recorded better cholesterol and lipid levels and drops in their insulin levels. The 43 patients all had metabolic syndrome, which puts them at higher risk for diabetes and heart disease. But by having them try a no-sugar diet, the lead author says, “We reversed virtually every aspect of their metabolic syndrome.”
In all, researchers say that the kids’ sugar intake went from 28 percent of daily calories to just 10 percent, likely a reduction achievable by most people. Industry groups that sell sugary foods quickly disputed the findings, though. One called it “irresponsible” to generalize the results when these were kids with a specific disorder, and the American Beverage Association, which is already having a nightmarish year, rejected the study as “alarm without proof.” The team admits more research is necessary, but says what’s undeniable is that these kids made a “very, very large improvement” with just a few simple changes. Perhaps they could have timed the release better — after all, it’s almost Halloween.