A Systematic Comparison of Sugar Content in Low-Fat vs Regular Versions of Food

Nutr Diabetes. 2016 Jan 25;6(1):e193. doi: 10.1038/nutd.2015.43.


Obesity remains a significant public health concern. One of the primary messages from providers and health-care organizations is to eat healthier foods with lower fat. Many in the lay press, however, have suggested that lower fat versions of foods contain more sugar. To our knowledge, a systematic comparison of the sugar content in food with lower fat alternatives has not been performed. In this study, we compared fat free, low fat and regular versions of the same foods using data collected from the USDA National Nutrient Database. We found that the amount of sugar is higher in the low fat (that is, reduced calorie, light, low fat) and non-fat than 'regular' versions of tested items (Friedman P=0.00001, Wilcoxon P=0.0002 for low fat vs regular food and P=0.0003 for non-fat vs regular food). Our data support the general belief that food that is lower in fat may contain more sugar.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / analysis*
  • Dietary Fats / analysis*
  • Energy Intake
  • Food Analysis*
  • Food Preferences
  • Food, Organic
  • Nutritive Value
  • Weight Gain


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats