Short Term Sugar Sweetened Drinks May Not Be Detrimental To Adolescent Health

Jill Kanaley, PhD Professor and associate chair Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology University of Interview with:
Jill Kanaley, PhD
Professor and Associate Ahair
Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology
University of Missouri

Abstract: Background: Adolescents consume more sugar-sweetened beverages than do individuals in any other age group, but it is unknown how the type of sugar-sweetened beverage affects metabolic health in this population.

Objective: The objective was to compare the metabolic health effects of short-term (2-wk) consumption of high-fructose (HF) and high-glucose (HG)–sweetened beverages in adolescents (15–20 y of age).

Design: In a counterbalanced, single-blind fashion, 40 male and female adolescents completed two 2-wk trials that included 1) an HF trial in which they consumed 710 mL of a sugar-sweetened beverage/d (equivalent to 50 g fructose/d and 15 g glucose/d) for 2 wk and 2) an HG trial in which they consumed 710 mL of a sugar-sweetened beverage/d (equivalent to 50 g glucose/d and 15 g fructose/ d) for 2 wk in addition to their normal ad libitum diet. In addition, the participants maintained similar physical activity levels during each trial. The day after each trial, insulin sensitivity and resistance [assessed via Quantitative Insulin Sensitivity Check Index (QUICKI) and homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) index] and fasting and postprandial glucose, lactate, lipid, cholesterol, insulin, C-peptide, insulin secretion, and clearance responses to HF or HG mixed meals were assessed.

Results: Body weight, QUICKI (whole-body insulin sensitivity), HOMA-IR (hepatic insulin resistance), and fasting lipids, cholesterol, glucose, lactate, and insulin secretion or clearance were not different between trials. Fasting HDL- and HDL3-cholesterol concentrations were w10–31% greater (P , 0.05) in female adolescents than in male adolescents. Postprandial triacylglycerol, HDL-cholesterol, HDL3-cholesterol, and glucose concentrations were not different between HF and HG trials. The lactate incremental area under the curve was w3.7-fold greater during the HF trial (P , 0.05), whereas insulin secretion was 19% greater during the HG trial (P , 0.05).

Conclusions: Moderate amounts of HF- or HG-sweetened beverages for 2 wk did not have differential effects on fasting or postprandial cholesterol, triacylglycerol, glucose, or hepatic insulin clearance in weight-stable, physically active adolescents.

Medical Research: What should patients and clinicians take away from this report?

Dr. Kanaley: Collectively, the data from this study and others (30–33) suggest that fructose or glucose consumption per se is not detrimental to an adolescent’s health and perhaps factors other than fructose intake (obesity, physical activity levels) should be modulated to prevent chronic disease.

You must also remember this was only for 2 weeks, and we are not encouraging the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages because of the empty calories.  In addition, we have done another study in young adults and found that the amount of physical activity is the key to preventing the deleterious changes.


D. Heden, Y. Liu, Y.-M. Park, L. M. Nyhoff, N. C. Winn, J. A. Kanaley. Moderate amounts of fructose- or glucose-sweetened beverages do not differentially alter metabolic health in male and female adolescents. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2014; 100 (3): 796 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.113.081232