Fat Content Per Energy Drink 0g, Body Fat Gain Per Energy Drink 18g! Human Trial Confirms: +1kg of Body Fat in 4 Weeks From Less than 2x Energy Drinks per Day!

Image 1 (NYC Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene): The words on this poster from a 2009 campaign in the NY subway must be taken literally!
There is a reason for me to always begin my "dietary advice" with the statement "there is NO WAY that you ever again drink any soft, energy drinks or fruit juices on a daily basis". And though I would not have needed a study to confirm skipping, lemonade, coke & co is one of the simplest, for many people yet not easiest steps to a healthier and leaner physique, I must admit that I was pretty surprised how rapid both your health and body composition deteriorate, once you reintroduce this junk into your diet. +1kg of pure body fat in 4 weeks, that was the amount of weight the 11 healthy men and women in a recently published study by scientists from the UK, Italy and the US gained within just 4 weeks in the course of which they drank on average two more or less tasty Lucozade Energy drinks per day (Sartor. 2012).

Fat content of energy drink 0g, body fat gain per energy drink 18g!

Figure 1 (gsk): Nutritional information of the energy drink the subjects drank during the 4-week study period
Sartor et al. about whose study on the "habituation effects" of sweet beverage you may already have read in one of the installments of the Insulin Resistance Saga (cf. "Where Has All the Sweetness Gone? Plus: Bullied to Eat Twinkies") had recruited 11 healthy young men (n=5) and women (n=6) with a mean age of 26 years, who were handed a month's supply of GlaxoSmith Kline's yummy Lucozade Energy of which they had to drink ~2 bottles per day (2x 380ml; in fact the average intake was only 760ml and was matched to deliver 2g carbohydrates per kg body weight; for detailed "nutritional" information based see figure 1) - just to make that clear, I suspect the results would not have been much different if this had not been Lucozade, but plain Coke, if the daily consumption (1.2l) had delivered the same amount of sugary carbs.

Apropos effects, if you take a look at the actual data in figure 2 it is quite obvious that the increase in body fat did not occur in the absence of the rise of other characteristic features of the metabolic syndrome, i.e. changes in blood glucose and lipid metabolism.
Figure 2: Changes in body composition, HOMA markers of insulin resistance, sensitivity and pancreatic function, as well as blood lipids after 4 weeks of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (based on Sartor. 2012)
A particular reason of concern - at least in my humble opinion - are the rapid (remember these deteriorations occurred within only 4 weeks!) reductions in HOMA measure insulin sensitivity / increases in HOMA based insulin resistance measures. Which would only exponentiate the detrimental effects of the daily glucose overload.

High blood glucose, high RER, high insulin, but no increase in energy intake

Together with the significantly increased fasting glucose (+6%) and fasting insulin levels (+25%) and the accompanying reversal of the fat-to-carbohydrate oxidation rates from 2:1 to 1:3 in the fasted state this does already suggest that this is once more not solely an effect of an increase in energy intake as conventional wisdom would have it!
Figure 3: Changes in macronutrient composition and non-existent changes in total caloric intake over the course of the 4 weeks of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (based on Sartor. 2012)
If you take a closer look at the data in figure 3 you can even drop the "solely" from the previous sentence and state: "the obesogenic effect of sugary beverages has no relation whatsoever to an increase in overall energy intake!"

Its not so much about how much, its about what and which!

It stands to reason that this increasingly accepted "violation" of the rules of thermodynamics *rofl* did not go unnoticed by Sartor et al., who had also analyzed the expression of several genes in samples of the skeletal muscle tissue of their subjects and found that there were statistically significant
  • increases in glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPH), acetyl-CoA carboxylase alpha (ACC) and MonodA mRNA expression, which are indicative of increased glycolysis, decreased fatty acid oxidation and an increased cellular awareness of blood sugar abundance, respectively, as well as a significant
  • decrease in peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator 1alpha (PGC-1a), of which you have read in relation to Irisin in "If a High Fat Diet was a Pill, the Lay Press Would Celebrate it as Exercise in a Pill!" that it is responsible for increases in mitochondrial firepower and fatty oxidation capacity
Much more so than the 1kg of body fat, which should be relatively easy to shed by simply pouring energy-, soft-drinks & co down the sink, instead of downing them with a gulp, these transcriptional (epigenetic) changes and the previously reported deteriorations in taste perception in response to the consumption of sugar (not fructose!) sweetened beverages (Sartor. 2011), are the real alarming results of this 4-week trial. After all, they are the ones that predispose to future fat gain, diabetes and hyperlipidemia!

So, what can be done?

Image 2: OTC solution to the problem? Water + Workout
Luckily there is a tried and proven non-pharmacological solution to this problem, an OTC double-whammy, if you will that is not just free, but will actually save you truckloads of money! Initially for all the energy drinks and soft-drinks you are not buying anymore and for all the medication the medical bill's and the XXL coffin for your funeral in the weeks, months, years and decades to come. What? You want to know what this OTC double-whammy is? Plain water and regular exercise! While the former is equally if not more thirst-quenching than the differently colored sugar waters, the latter will help to gradually reverse the epigenitic changes and restore a healthy glucose and fatty acid metabolism.

  1. GlaxoSmithKline (gsk). Lucozade Official Shop. Lucozade Energy - Original. 2012 < http://www.lucozadeshop.com/lucozadeenergy/lucozadeenergyoriginal > Received on June 30, 2012.
  2. Sartor F, Donaldson LF, Markland DA, Loveday H, Jackson MJ, Kubis HP. Taste perception and implicit attitude toward sweet related to body mass index and soft drink supplementation. Appetite. 2011 Aug;57(1):237-46. 
  3. Sartor F, Jackson MJ, Squillace C, Shepherd A, Moore JP, Ayer DE, Kubis HP. Adaptive metabolic response to 4 weeks of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in healthy, lightly active individuals and chronic high glucose availability in primary human myotubes. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Jun 26.
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