Starches, sugars and obesity

Nutrients. 2011 Mar;3(3):341-69. doi: 10.3390/nu3030341. Epub 2011 Mar 14.


The rising prevalence of obesity, not only in adults but also in children and adolescents, is one of the most important public health problems in developed and developing countries. As one possible way to tackle obesity, a great interest has been stimulated in understanding the relationship between different types of dietary carbohydrate and appetite regulation, body weight and body composition. The present article reviews the conclusions from recent reviews and meta-analyses on the effects of different starches and sugars on body weight management and metabolic disturbances, and provides an update of the most recent studies on this topic. From the literature reviewed in this paper, potential beneficial effects of intake of starchy foods, especially those containing slowly-digestible and resistant starches, and potential detrimental effects of high intakes of fructose become apparent. This supports the intake of whole grains, legumes and vegetables, which contain more appropriate sources of carbohydrates associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases, rather than foods rich in sugars, especially in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Keywords: energy expenditure; energy intake; hormones; insulin resistance; lipids; metabolic syndrome; obesity; satiety; starch; sugars.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Appetite Regulation / drug effects
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Sucrose / adverse effects*
  • Energy Intake
  • Fructose / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Starch / pharmacology*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Fructose
  • Starch