Does “reduced sugars” mean fewer calories?

“Reduced sugars” or similar claims in food do not necessarily mean fewer calories. It is important to read nutrition declarations on food and drinks, which compare the total energy content per 100 grams or ml.

In recent years, many products have been marketed with claims such as “low sugar content” or “no added sugar”. A recent consumer survey shows that consumers usually expect foods with a “reduced sugars” claim to also be lower in energy – but this is not necessarily the case.

The reason is that volume of sugar has to be replaced with other nutrients – which contain at least as much energy as sugar (other types of carbohydrate, protein or fat). This means that the food’s energy content per 100 grams is basically unchanged – or in some cases even higher. The energy content is only reduced if sugar is completely or partly replaced by water in liquid foods. In solid products, the volume of sugar will be replaced by other energy-releasing nutrients which have the same energy content.

So it is not solely the energy from added sugar that you have to think about if you want to lose or maintain weight. It is important to read the nutrition declaration and compare the foods’ total energy content per 100 g.

One example is breakfast cereals, for which there is often an emphasis on sugar content. However, the tables show lower sugar content, not fewer calories.

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