At one time, it was believed that the more sugar there is in the diet the less “room” there would be for the essential micronutrients. Subsequent research has shown this assumption to be incorrect, except perhaps, in the most extreme cases.
Sugar and empty calories
Since table sugar does not contain vitamins or minerals, it seems self evident that the higher the proportion of sugar in the diet the lower the vitamin and mineral content must be. But like many assumptions in nutrition, detailed examination of real peoples’ diets has not borne out expectation. It is regrettable that an idea that is not supported by evidence continues to be asserted as correct by some researchers and policy makers.
A number of thorough analyses of the variation in the intake of vitamins and minerals with sugar consumption in the diets of individuals of various ages have been conducted. These have not suggested that there is an appreciable impact of sugar intake, or that modifying sugar intake is likely to be an effective means of altering micronutrient consumption. This is not to state that all individuals appear to consume sufficient amounts of micronutrients. Although the majority of the population has a more than adequate intake of all micronutrients, dietary estimates suggest that an appreciable proportion of the population fails to consume the minimum recommended amount of one or more micronutrients. But the evidence clearly shows that sugar consumption has little, if any influence on micronutrient intakes.
These conclusions are based, as all data of this type currently are, on self- reported food intake records. These are known to be incomplete in many cases. Under-reporting food intake will lead to an exaggerated estimate of the number of subjects whose micronutrient intake is less than recommended. In reality, many subjects’ intakes will be higher than reported. Consequently, the conclusion that sugar intake is immaterial is likely to be robust, and is supported by measurements of biological status indicators of micronutrient adequacy (where these are available). These measurements show that the number of individuals reporting inadequate intakes greatly exceeds the number who have inadequate status when assessed by biological markers .
Rather than advising a reduction in sugar intake as a method of improving micronutrient intakes, it would be more likely to be effective to focus on widening the variety of foods in the diet.