Not All Calories Affect Health Equally Interview with:
“Soda” by Jannes Pockele is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Kimber L. Stanhope, Ph.D., M.S., R.D.
Research Nutritional Biologist
Department of Molecular Biosciences: SVM
University of California, Davis What are the main findings of this study?

Response: Sugar-sweetened beverages increase risk factors for cardiometabolic disease compared with calorically-equal amounts of starch.

We are not the first group of experts to reach this conclusion. The Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group reached a similar conclusion last year (Micha, 2017). Yet very different conclusions/opinions are being still being published by other researchers. (Latest example: Archer E., In Defense of Sugar: A Critique of Diet-Centrism. Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, May 1, 2018).

These conflicting conclusions confuse the public and undermine the implementation of public health policies, such as soda taxes and warning labels, that could help to slow the epidemics of obesity and cardiometabolic disease. We hope that the careful review of the evidence and the discussion of issues that can lead to conflicting opinions in nutrition research in this paper will help to clarify this issue.

Consumption of polyunsaturated (n-6) fats, such as those found in some vegetable oils, seeds, and nuts, lowers disease risk when compared with equal amounts of saturated fats.

It is important to note however, that the effects of saturated fat can vary depending on the type of food. Dairy foods such as cheese and yogurts, which can be high in saturated fats, have been associated with reduced cardiometabolic risk.

The non-caloric sweetener aspartame does not promote weight gain in adults.

Aspartame is the most extensively studied of the non-caloric sweeteners. None of the dietary intervention studies that have investigated the effects of aspartame consumption have shown it promotes body weight gain.

This includes studies in which the adult research participants consumed aspartame for 6 months, 1 year or 3 years. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: In addition to the above conclusions, the reader can benefit from understanding the challenges involved in conducting nutrition research that are described in the paper. These challenges help explain why some questions, such as “does the high carbohydrate diet promote more weight gain than the high fat diet?” cannot be answered. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The costs and challenges involved in answering the above high carbohydrate versus high fat diet may be insurmountable. Research efforts may be better directed toward:

  1. How can we prevent the weight gain that inevitably follows weight loss on low calorie diets?
  2. How can we best help people prefer and choose to eat a healthy diet pattern consisting of minimally-processed whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats rather than the refined and palatable typical western diet pattern.

I have no disclosures to report, beyond the honoraria stated in the paper.

(Note that the paper does not report the finding from a study—rather it is the conclusions from the presentations and discussions of 22 researchers with extensive experience in nutrition and metabolism research who participated in the 2017 CrossFit Foundation Academic Conference)


Micha R, Shulkin ML, Penalvo JL, Khatibzadeh S, Singh GM, Rao M, et al. Etiologic effects and optimal intakes of foods and nutrients for risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses from the Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group (NutriCoDE). PLoS One. 2017; 12: e0175149.

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