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Do diets high in sugars compromise micronutrient intakes? Micronutrient intakes in the Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults according to dietary concentration of ‘added’, ‘non-milk extrinsic’ or ‘total’ sugars

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Objective: It has been claimed that dietary sugars, particularly added and non-milk extrinsic sugars, are ‘empty calories’, displacing micronutrients from the diet. Evidence for this hypothesis was examined using data from the Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults (Gregory et al., 1990).Method: Men and women aged 16–64 years were classified into quintiles (fifths) of the distribution of food energy from added sugars, non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES) and total sugars. Micronutrient intakes were compared across quintiles for each type of sugars energy.Results: Many nutrients showed a non-linear relationship with sugars energy (whether added, NME or total), with the highest nutrient intakes among average consumers. The most marginal nutrient (in comparison to dietary reference values) was iron among women; no group achieved the RNI for iron, regardless of sugar level or type. Calcium intakes were below the RNI among women in the first quintile (all types of sugars), although under-reporting may have led to underestimations of intake in this group. Intakes of several nutrients fell in the 4th and 5th quintiles (all types), but remained adequate in comparison to the RNI (except for iron and folate in women). There were positive relationships between extrinsic and total sugars, and vitamin C, which reflected fruit juice consumption. Diets high in added and NME sugars tended to be of lower nutrient density, but any deficit in nutrient intake was contingent on a low energy intake, which was untypical.Conclusions: These data suggest that NME sugar intakes providing up to about 17% of food energy did not compromise micronutrient intakes in these British adults. Specific advice may be needed to counteract low nutrient intakes (e.g. iron intake in women), particularly where energy intake is restricted.
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Keywords: adults; diet; micronutrients; non-milk extrinsic sugars; sugars

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: Nutrition Consultant, Guildford, Surrey

Publication date: 1997-01-01

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