Fat free products won't help you lose weight if they contain sugar

Sugar is converted to fat

Bad Advice: "Avoid fats" Fat actually satisfies the appetite longer and fats are essential for good health (Gerber 2000)

Good Advice: Avoid consuming rancid or oxidized fats

Question: I've been trying to determine the effects of excess sugar in my diet. According to the body building publications I read, I should avoid sugar because it easily converts to fat in the bloodstream. Further, I've read I should stay away from fruit. True, it is high in vitamins and minerals, but it contains the simple sugar fructose which ends up as fat in the bloodstream. Is this true? And, if in fact sugar is converted to fat, what does that say about the so called "Fat Free" products on the market? Have they simply hidden the fat as various types of sugar in the label's carbohydrate category? I've been developing a diet containing moderate protein, low fat (about 10-15%), and the rest carbohydrates. Combining this with exercise, I've steadily lost weight and am never hungry though I'm typically a big eater. If, in fact, sugar has a negative effect on weight loss, should I reduce my sugar intake as much as possible?

Answer: First, sugar in the diet is a broad term. This is because food that falls into the macronutrient group of carbohydrate is all composed of varying types of sugars. This includes bread, pastas, rice, fruit and many combination foods like candy bars that have carbohydrate, protein and fat.

Sugar by itself is not inherently bad. Rather it is the body's response to sugar that can be problematic for some people. Remember that in order to produce energy the body must first convert food to sugar for oxidation (burning). So, regardless of whether you've eaten proteins, carbs or fats it will ultimately end up as sugar (except in a very particular instance).


This is good because your brain will only use sugar for energy. In fact it is the sugar or glucose level of the brain that determines feelings of hunger, satiation or any specific craving for a certain food.

The reason why sugar has such a bad rap has to do with insulin. In the body, insulin has a very important job. It is secreted in response to elevated blood sugar levels, such as those that occur after a meal, and it pushes that sugar into storage. First to be filled are the tissues of the muscles and the liver where the sugar (which is what your meal has become) is converted to glycogen. Glycogen is the body's fuel of choice for high intensity aerobic activity because it is readily available and because it is quickly converted to ATP for energy.

The problem is that the body only has storage for about 2500 calories worth of glycogen providing your stores were totally empty (which is impossible). Most people only have room to store about 500 calories of glycogen from any given meal. After these storage areas become full, insulin pushes the remaining sugar into the other infinite storage area, FAT STORAGE.

The critical thing is not whether a food has sugar, but how quickly the sugar enters the blood stream. Food is actually categorized by this rate of entry. This is known as the glycemic index. On this scale sucrose (table sugar) is given a 100 rating. Foods like honey, cooked carrots, sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables and fruits including bananas are even higher. Broccoli is rated 34 on the glycemic index. Things like pastas and breads are somewhere in the middle. Fructose or fruit sugar is rated a 20 on the glycemic index (GI). It is one of the lowest GI sugars known.


To reduce the impact of dietary carbohydrate you should strive to eat foods low on the glycemic scale. You can also reduce the GI of foods or meals by eating a combination of protein carbohydrates and fat each time you put food into your body. Monounsaturated fat (like avocados, almonds and olive oil) are especially good because they do not affect insulin or other hormones and they very effectively lower the GI of other foods by slowing absorption. Adding small amounts of fat to each meal also results in the release of certain hormones from your stomach that will help you feel satisfied and reduce the number of meals you need which will assist you in reaching your ideal weight.

So, in summary, fruit isn't bad depending upon which fruit you choose; eating protein, fruit and carbohydrates together helps more; and large amounts of any carbohydrate will increase blood sugar levels rapidly which can result in excess fat storage.

One note: how your body reacts to carbohydrate is a genetically predetermined thing. If you have a history of diabetes, heart disease or hypertension in your family you are likely to have these problems yourself. The best way to avoid this trap is to consistently eat low GI meals and snacks.

Regarding reduced fat and fat free foods, you are absolutely right. The fat in these foods has been replaced by simple carbohydrates which raise their GI. This fat free trend has been the largest unsuccessful dietary experiment ever conducted. The result: over the last decade the average American is 33% fatter! This despite the proliferation of these low and nonfat foods.

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