Researchers Rethink “Safe” Sugar Levels

A new study suggests as little as three sugary drinks a day could affect health more than previously believed. A detailed study of mice found those some consuming a diet including a sugar water mixture died at younger ages, and showed serious problems with survival behavior.


In humans medical experts have long believed eating a healthy diet and consuming processed sugar in small amounts equivalent to three sodas a day was safe, and wouldn’t cause serious ill-effect. This recent study by biologists at the University of Utah found giving wild mice processed sugar and water daily caused drastic differences in longevity of the females, and damaged the ability to thrive in the males.


Another important aspect of the researcher’s findings is the effect of the sugar intake was “invisible”. The mice in the group given the additional sugar didn’t develop obesity or obvious physical problems  yet the females died at twice the rate of those in the group not given the sugar, while the males became more apathetic than those in the control group.


The mice were not kept in cages, but instead lived in room-sized habitats modeled after a natural environment. Males in the group given the 50-50 fructose-sucrose solution moved to take preferred territory from competing males 26% less often than those in the control group, and fathered 25% fewer pups.


The study published in the online edition journal Nature Communications is raising questions about previously held ideas regarding safe levels of processed sugars. In their statement when publishing their study the researchers wrote the findings provided evidence additional sugar intake at what is now believed to be safe concentrations demonstrate serious adverse effects on “mammalian health”.  The researchers also pointed out the importance of the fact the mice were given an otherwise healthy diet, and that living in a more natural settings allowed the study to note behavior difference which otherwise might have gone unnoticed.

The leader of the research Professor Wayne Potts has indicted he believes this study is applicable in looking at the eating habits of human beings. Potts told the media in his opinion the study demonstrates the adverse effects of additional sugars at levels relevant to humans. Potts also stressed the importance of finding only a few minor physical changes in the mice despite the ultimate outcomes. The mice did show a raise in cholesterol levels, but not in their insulin or blood sugar levels. Potts states this demonstrates problems with additional sugar in the diet might not show up in “conventional” tests.

Currently experts recommend that men limit additional sugar to 36 grams or roughly 9 teaspoons a day, and women to limit intake to 24 grams or about 6 teaspoons daily. Recommendations also call for adults to limit soft drinks containing sugar to 36 ounces a week. Past research has shown most Americans have 84 grams or 21 teaspoons of added sugar a day.  A high daily sugar intake has already been linked to a number of conditions in humans including obesity, Diabetes Type II, heart disease and even some cancers. This is the first study to indicate the health of mammals is dramatically impacted by relatively small levels of processed sugar in the diet.

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