Question 1

Is there a relationship between sugar and overweight?


In the Netherlands, there is no direct relationship between the amount of sugar we use and how much we weigh.

The amount of sugar we use has not changed since the 1980s. But there has been a sharp increase in the percentage of overweight adults in the Netherlands: from 33% in the 1980s to 48% in 2012. The number of obese people has risen from 5% to 12%.

Question 2

What makes people fat?


Weight gain happens when calorie intake (eating and drinking) is higher than calorie output through physical activity.

Our calorie intake is higher if we eat foods with a high energy density and eat large portions. Being active is important for, among others, burning calories. The Dutch healthy exercise norm (NNGB) advises 30 minutes of moderately intensive exercise every day (at least five days a week) for adults. The recommendation for overweight people and children under 19 years old is higher: at least 60 minutes a day.

Question 3

What is more important, more exercise or eating less?


Both exercise and a balanced diet are important for health and a healthy body weight.

Eating less reduces calorie intake, whereas more exercise increases calorie output. When calorie output is higher than calorie intake, people lose weight. This is regardless of whether that is a consequence of more exercise, eating less or both. By the way, everyone benefits from an active lifestyle. It improves health and quality of life, independent of weight change. Frequent moderately intensive exercise (such as a bicycle ride or a brisk walk) reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, bowel cancer and breast cancer.

Question 4

Who suffers most from overweight in the Netherlands?


Mainly men, but also women and elderly people are overweight.

In 2012 53% of men and 44% of women were overweight. Men are overweight more often than women, but obesity is more frequent in women. Some 11% of men are obese and some 14% of women. Overweight and obesity increase with age and are more prevalent among people with a low level of education.

Question 5

Is there still need for sugar now so many light products are available?


Yes, sugar has a unique taste and specific functional properties. Therfore, replacement is often very difficult.

Sugar can often be replaced in liquid products but doing so changes taste and mouthfeel. It is more difficult, if not impossible, to substitute sugar in solid products, because sugar is responsible for volume, browning, structure and caramelisation. Artificial sweeteners do not have these properties. Demand for low calorie alternatives to sugar is high but, at present, artificial sweeteners can be used in only a limited number of applications and often have an undesirable aftertaste. The sweet taste of sugar is still unique.

Question 6

Does sugar make you fat?


Sugar is a sweetener but does not specifically make you fat.

You gain weight if your calorie intake is higher than your calorie output through exercise. It does not matter whether the excess calories come from carbohydrates (such as sugar), fat, proteins or alcohol. All carbohydrates, as well as proteins, contain 4 kcal per gram. Fat, by contrast, contains 9 kcal per gram and alcohol 7 kcal per gram. Sugar therefore does not specifically make you fat, although too much sugar is not desirable. The total calorie intake should be in balance with the calorie output. Make sure the basis of your diet consists of lots of vegetables, fruit and whole grain products. In addition to this basic diet, you can eat and drink 200-400 kcal, depending on age and sex, in the form of ‘extras’ such as savoury snacks, sweet snacks and drinks.