New research from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh(1), shows that sugary drinks, consumed in moderate quantities, do not promote weight gain, carbohydrate craving or adverse mood effects in overweight women when they do not know what they are drinking.

The study(2), conducted by Marie Reid, Richard Hammersley and colleagues set out to determine the long-term effects of adding a sucrose drink to the diet of overweight women (BMI 25-30), on dietary intake and mood. The results show that overweight women do not suffer adverse effects, such as weight gain or mood fluctuation, if they do not know whether or not they are drinking a sugary or artificially sweetened drink. Instead women took in fewer calories elsewhere in the diet, to balance the calories in the drinks.

These findings suggest that because it is widely believed that sugary drinks are bad and part of an unhealthy diet, people then go on to behave accordingly. Prof Marie Reid, Professor of Applied Psychology at Queen Margaret University concludes: “Widespread publicity about the supposed harmful effects of sugar may make such effects more likely, as believing sugar to be harmful may encourage negative emotions after eating sugary food and lead to the abstinence violation effect. In other words, knowing that you’re drinking sugary drinks, while believing that they’re harmful, might result in the derailing of a generally healthy low-fat diet”.

“Sugar in moderation plays a neutral role in the balanced diet, but an emotionally charged role in the psychology of food choice,” she added.

The research studied 53 overweight women and subjects were monitored eating, drinking and exercising as usual throughout the study, while completing food, mood and activity diaries. Each week subjects consumed 28 bottles of unidentified drink – one group of women was given sucrose drinks and the other aspartame (artificial sweetener).

The new research replicates a previous study conducted by Reid et al. (2007)(3), with normal weight women. The results substantiate those of the earlier study and show that women reduced their voluntary energy intake when the sucrose drinks were added to the diet. By the final week of the study, women had reduced their total energy intake back to baseline levels.


1 Psychology Department, Queen Margaret University, Mussleburgh Campus, Edinburgh

2 Reid, M., Hammersley, R., & Duffy, M. (2010) Effects of sucrose drinks on macronutrient intake, body weight, and mood state in overweight women over 4 weeks. Appetite, Volume 55, Issue 1, 130-136.

3 Reid, M., Hammersley, R., Hill, A. J., & Skidmore, P. (2007) Long-term dietary compensation for added sugar: effects of supplementary sucrose drinks over a 4-week period. British Journal of Nutrition, 97, 193-203.


The research was funded by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and The Sugar Bureau.

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The Sugar Bureau is an association fostering research, communication and information on sugar and health.

Source: Queen Margaret University