A new study, lead by Professor Wayne Potts at the University of Utah, has a grim message to send about dietary sugar and the harmful effects it can have at levels previously considered “safe.”
Today, as sweeteners are added into more and more everyday food items, many Americans get 25% of their daily calories from added sugars and this percentage, while not exactly healthy, has been considered relatively harmless.
But when Potts and his research team fed mice (sadly, this study was done with animal testing) a comparable diet with 25% added sugars, the results were anything but neutral. The study found that female mice eating the high-sugar diets for 26 weeks died at twice the normal rate and male mice were less likely to reproduce and hold territory.
Throughout the study, the mice were fed sweeteners that closely resembled those that humans are regularly exposed to: namely, sugars that are half fructose and half glucose monosaccharides, which is roughly the makeup of high fructose corn syrup. The control group only consumed sugars that can be found naturally in fruits and milk at much lower levels.
Potts and his team concluded that “added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic impacts on mammalian health.” And could these findings be applied to human health? The team gives a resounding yes: “Many researchers have already made calls for reevaluation of these safe levels of consumption.”
Two trade groups related the the sweetener industry are investigating the study for possible flaws. The Corn Refiners Association has raised the claim that “[m]ice do not eat sugar as a part of their normal diet, so the [study] authors are measuring a contrived overload effect that might not be present had the rodents adapted to sugar intake over time.” The Sugar Association has also argued against the diet used in the study, claiming that the sweeteners used in the study can not be compared to true sugar.
In response, Potts said that mice are “an excellent mammal to model human dietary issues” as they have been living with humans and eating human foods for thousands of years. He also pointed out that American consumption of HFCS has increased by 50% in the last forty years while true sugar consumption has decreased by 30%, therefore the study can be more closely connected to the average American’s diet.
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