A study conducted by the researchers in University of Georgia, US warns that so-called “diet” products containing low or no fat may have higher amount of sugar and consuming them regularly could make you fat.
The sugar-laden “diet” foods could also lead to liver damage and brain inflammation, said the study published in the journal Physiology & Behaviour.
According to Professor Krzysztof Czaja, who led the study, many “diet” foods disguise the amount of sugar they contain with fancy names, giving the impression that they are healthy.
“The reality is that those foods may damage the liver and lead to obesity as well,” said Prof Czaja.
The researchers tested the theory by monitoring the body weight, caloric intake, body composition and fecal samples of three groups of rats over a four-week period.
One group consumed a diet high in fat and sugar, another group was fed a diet high in sugar but low in fat ,meant to imitate many popular diet foods and a third group was given a balanced or “normal” diet.
Both the low-fat, high-sugar and high-fat, high-sugar groups displayed an increase in liver fat and significant increases in body weight and body fat when compared to the balanced diet group.
Czaja said “is a very dangerous situation, because the liver accumulating more fat mimics the effect of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by fat buildup in the liver, and serious forms of the disease can result in liver damage comparable to that caused by heavy alcohol use.
The unbalanced diets also induced chronic inflammation in the intestinal tract and brain.
Former studies in rats conducted by Czaja have shown that brain inflammation can affect the brain’s ability to determine when one is full.
“The brain changes resulting from these unbalanced diets seem to be long term, and it is still not known if they are reversible by balanced diets,” Czaja said.
They found that the body fat mass of the rats on the low-fat, high-sugar diet increased when compared to rats that had been fed a balanced rodent diet.