Levels of sugar that many of us consume without a second thought could be harming our life expectancy, scientists have warned. Three sodas a day is hardly an unthinkable amount to drink – but a new study suggests that even this amount could have an adverse effect on your health, potentially even slashing your lifespan and reducing your fertility.
‘Safe’ Amount of Added Sugar May Be Harmful
Added sugar is best avoided if you’re trying to lose weight, but in general we’re told that small amounts of sugary foods and drinks are unlikely to do too much harm. Now, however, a study suggests that even levels of added sugar that we might consider to be ‘safe’ could be having a major impact on our health.
Scientists at the University of Utah carried out a series of tests on mice to study the effects of added sugar on their life expectancy and ability to reproduce. They found that when mice ate a regular diet with 25% extra sugar – that’s the equivalent of a healthy diet plus three cans of soda per day for humans – females died at twice the normal rate. After 32 weeks had passed, 35% of females on the added-sugar diet had died, compared with just 17% of those on a regular diet with no extra sugar.
Not only that, but male mice were a quarter less likely to hold territory and reproduce. Essentially, levels of sugar that many people consume on a daily basis caused the animals to die at an earlier age and have fewer babies.
Sugar Has ‘Dramatic’ Effect on Health
Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the study authors claimed:
Our results provide evidence that added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic adverse impacts on mammalian health.
Dr. Wayne Potts, a biology professor at the University of Utah and the study’s senior author, said the findings demonstrate “the adverse effects of added sugars at human-relevant levels”. In fact, the harm caused by eating 25% added sugar was similar in magnitude to that caused by first cousin inbreeding!
How Relevant are the Findings to Humans?
Admittedly the studies were carried out using mice, not people, so there is no guarantee that the same results would be seen in humans. The Corn Refiners Association issued a statement claiming it “simply is not possible to know how humans would react without testing them in the same way”.
But according to Dr. Potts, the levels of extra sugar that were added to the animals’ diets were similar to those consumed by between 13 and 25% of Americans. That means that if the findings do hold true for humans as well as mice, a significant proportion of people could be doing themselves serious harm by consuming what appear to be innocuous amounts of added sugar, even if the rest of their diet is perfectly healthy.
So while there’s no need to be alarmed by the findings of the study, it may be worth thinking about the amount of added sugar in your diet and seeing whether you can cut back. Not only will this be good for your waistline, it might also enable you to lead a longer and healthier life!