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Diet and Nutrition

How Sugar Makes You Gain Weight?

04/07/2009

Question:

Dear expert,

I wonder why sugar can make people become fat. So far, I have just known that protein is the building block of the body. Can you explain to me why sugar also make people fat? Does it convert into fat in our body?

 

Answer:

Carbohydrate, protein, and fat can be digested and metabolized by the body to give us calories or energy.  If we eat more calories than our bodies need, we store more fat and gain weight.  Therefore, we can gain weight by eating too much carbohydrate, protein, or fat.

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that is easily digested and metabolized to give us about 4 calories for every gram.  Excess carbohydrate is first stored in the liver and muscles as a compound called glycogen.  Since we can only store a limited amount of glycogen, most of the excess carbohydrate is burned for energy.  So the body uses excess carbohydrate for energy rather than using fat stores for energy.  In this way, sugar allows the body's fat stores to increase. 

The key to weight control is to include appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat in your diet so that your calorie intake is equal to your calorie expenditure throughout the day.  This is called "energy balance".  If you want to lose weight, you can decrease your intake of these three nutrients (decreasing your energy intake) and you can increase your physical activity (increasing your energy expenditure).  For more information about the nutrients and weight control, visit the USDA website, www.supertracker.usda.gov.

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Response by:

Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD
Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati