Which is Worse, Fat or Sugar?

Confused? Have you ever wondered which is worse: fat or sugar?

Fat Versus Sugar

You have probably heard that carbohydrates can lead to weight gain (and this might lead you to think that sugar is worse) but you may have also heard that fat can lead to weight gain (and this may lead you thinking fat is worse). With these two thoughts in your head you can find yourself bouncing from a low-fat diet to a low-carb diet and then back to a low-fat diet.

If you are feeling confused about which is worse (fat or sugar) you are not alone.

This debate has been going on for a long time and has created a truckload of books (none of which address the real issue). Here is the truth: while there is really no good sugar that you can eat, fat can be good or bad for you (depending of what kind you choose).

Sugar Equals Fat

I’ve said this enough throughout this blog, but it bares saying again.

Sugar is turned into fat in your body because your body doesn’t like to waste energy. When you drink a soda, or eat something sugary, your body cannot possibly use all that sugar energy. Your body’s solution to extra sugar energy running around the body is to store it. This is why low-carb diets work, if you keep your blood sugar low then you also keep your body from converting blood sugar into body fat.

Remember that sugar itself is easy to turn into fat, but there are also foods that act like sugar that will just as easily be turned into fat.

Fat Depends

There are bad fats and good fats (and this will be the opposite of what you have probably heard).

Next to sugar, there is not a worse food to put in your mouth than vegetable oils. They look suspiciously similar to sugar because these oils are highly processed and highly refined. They are very unstable (think: create free-radicals), they turn into trans-fats, and when you consume these oils, they increase inflammation in your body.

Eating saturated fats, such those found in meats and butter, coconut/palm oil along with seed oils such as olive and avocado are okay.

Which is Worse, Fat or Sugar?

The question about which is worse (fat or sugar) is that they both cause us problems and especially when bad fats and sugar are combined in a meal. The low-carb people got it half right and the low-fat people got it half right. If you want to lose weight, you need to find a diet plan that avoids sugars and uses only healthy fats.

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About the Author

I'm Dr. Scott Olson ND. I'm a Naturopathic doctor who specializes in diet, health, nutrition, and alternative medicine. I've written numerous books and articles on health, medicine, and alternative medicine I want to help you get healthy! Take a look at my blog and make sure you join in the conversation!

5 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. angela July 2, 2014 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    How do you measure sugar to weight gain? Example, 1 tsp of sugar equals 1 pound of weight gain. Or, 1 gram of sugar on food labels equals – how many pounds of fat/weight gain? Same with grams of fat, how do we convert these to our own weight gain to determine what to eat and not to eat.

    This information is completely useless to me as I have NO idea how it relates to my weight gain, only that if I eat a lot of sugar it is not good for me. I don’t know how many of these grams are bad. It doesn’t even list it in tsp or a measurement I can get a mental picture of.

    • Dr. Scott July 4, 2014 at 6:09 am - Reply


      I wish there were such a calculation that I could tell you, but there is not. Part of the problem lies with the fact that everyone metabolizes sugars differently and different sugars metabolize differently (fructose, for example, is much more likely to turn into fat that glucose). Having said that, most people will lose weight if they keep their total carbohydrate intake under 50 grams a day. For some people, they can go as high as 100 grams, but the 50 grams seems to be a good number.

      I hope that helps,

      Dr. Scott

  2. Ben January 31, 2014 at 12:07 am - Reply

    See the latest evidence based on the research presented on the BBC Horizon programme featuring twin Doctors on high fat and high sugar diets. Fat came out as by far the worst substance to bias any healthy diet on.

  3. John January 23, 2014 at 2:31 am - Reply

    I have tried the Atkins diet- the real one and lost no weight at all none. I am a bit of a fatty but not soft squiggy belly – solid. My weight also fluctuates during a day. Think I may be retaining water. Don’t expect a diagnosis but is there a diet that allows me to lose wieght- fat not muscle and stop storing water against possible future drought.

    • Dr. Scott January 23, 2014 at 7:06 am - Reply


      Sounds like there is a lot going on with you. Water retention can be the result of you eating something that you are allergic to; your body runs by the principle “the solution to pollution is dilution” – which means it holds on to water if it thinks something it toxic. The most common foods that might be causing this kind of reaction are corn, soy, wheat, eggs, shellfish, dairy (you can read more here: I’m Allergic to Everything) You can try to avoid those allergic foods and see what happens. Any diet that includes proteins, especially the branch chain amino acids, will retain muscle – but you also have to exercise to keep the muscle.

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