The most extensive study on nutrition and obesity on a European level was presented in Palma yesterday, at the third national congress of the Spanish Nutrition Society. The survey, known as CARMEN, comes to the conclusion that sugar does not make you fat. Xavier Formiguera, the director of the project in Spain, said that sugar had an undeserved bad reputation. He explained that it was not the sugar in sweets that piled on the kilos, but the fats they contain and insisted that it has not been scientifically proved that sugar makes you fat. Wim H M Saris, the international director of the project, said that the study concluded that a reduction in fats and increase in carbo hydrates, whether simple (sugar) or complex (pasta, bread, potatoes, rice) leads to a loss of weight in persons who are obese or overweight. This means, he explained, that restrictive diets are not necessary as their effectiveness is doubtful and they are never completed. Just cutting down on fat and increasing carbohydrates will lead to weight loss.

People taking part in the CARMEN study lost between one and two kilos, which Saris said was important, and could lead to a 15 to 30 per cent reduction in the number of overweight people in Europe. According to a survey by the Spanish Society for the Study of Obesity, 53 per cent of the Spanish adult population is overweight. The number of obese people in the Balearics is estimated at 12 per cent of the population, although this is lower than other regions - the figure for Andalucia is 21 per cent, and the Canary Islands 18 per cent. Saris said that obesity was a major health and economic problem (it accounts for nearly seven per cent of health expenditure in Spain) and he expressed concern because “what is happening in Europe now is what is already a reality in the United States). The compilers of the CARMEN study denied that the results had been conditioned by the fact that it had received funding from sugar companies. They said that before receiving the money it had been agreed that the results would be published even if they found that sugar made people fat and had to be cut out of the diet by slimmers.