When I go to my doctor, I expect care based on current medical information. And if some aspect of treatment has changed, due to newly discovered knowledge, I am pleased to be the beneficiary.
With nutrition, the opposite is often the case. A frequently cited barrier to making food changes for better health is, “I’m confused about food since your profession is always changing its mind about what to eat. Why bother?”
If a change in recommendations occurs, it is because research has revealed a better approach. The study of nutrition is still evolving from preventing deficiencies to enhancing health and reducing risk of chronic disease. And it is not just about the health benefit of individual foods. Furthermore, research on meal patterns is producing interesting results.
I was intrigued by an article in BMC Nutrition last month. Researchers from North Dakota were looking at the impact of sugar-sweetened drinks on energy metabolism and fat oxidation. It was a small study, only 24 individuals. The subjects had to spend, on two separate occasions, 24 hours in a 12-by-10 foot metabolic chamber equipped to measure calorie usage. They were given precisely measured menus of either 15 percent protein or 30 percent protein. At each meal, they had either a sugar-sweetened beverage or an artificially sweetened drink.
We know sugar is calories with no nutritionally redeeming value. But there is new information here. This research revealed that having a sugary drink with a meal reduced diet-induced thermogenesis (calorie-burning heat production). Basically, thermogenesis represents the calories you burn off.
The study found that a higher protein meal with a sugary drink reduced thermogenesis by approximately 40 percent. While additional calories from sugared drinks did not influence feelings of fullness, the study confirmed that a meal with a high percent of protein increased satiety.
More studies are needed to make this point. But this study does not change any of my recommendations. I have always advised clients to not drink sugared drinks with meals, or any other time, and I will continue to strongly do so.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.