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Even "Normal" Levels of Added Sugar are Dangerous to Health, Especially for Women

Sugar in Coffee

It is recommended by the American Heart Association that women consume no more than 24 grams of added sugar in a day, but these guidelines may need revising based on the latest animal study by researchers with the University of Utah.

Biology professor Wayne Potts and a team of researchers began the experiment with 156 laboratory mice who were assigned to either a diet with 25% added sugar – the mouse equivalent of a “healthy” human diet plus three cans of soda daily – or to a control diet. The team noted that the female mice eating excess sugar died at twice the normal rate, even if they didn’t show signs of obesity or other metabolic symptoms.

The male mice did not show the same lifespan decrease, but the team did notice that the males on the high-sugar diet acted differently in that they were less likely to reproduce.

"We have shown that levels of sugar that people typically consume – and that are considered safe by regulatory agencies – impair the health of mice," says study first author James Ruff PhD.

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Obviously, people are not mice. Science experiments often use mice and rats because their genetic, biological and behavior characteristics closely resemble those of humans and many symptoms of human conditions can be replicated in the rodents. Dr. Potts says that mice were used in this experiment because they “happen to be an excellent mammal to model human dietary issues because they’ve been living on the same diet as we have ever since the agricultural revolution.”

It can be difficult sometimes to determine the presence of added sugars (versus those naturally present in a food). The Nutrition Facts label does not list sugar source separately, so you have to do some detective work within the ingredient listing. Here are a few names for added sugar that you might find in a food:
• Agave nectar
• Brown sugar
• Cane crystals
• Cane sugar
• Corn sweetener
• Corn syrup
• Crystalline fructose
• Dextrose
• Evaporated cane juice
• Fructose
• Fruit juice concentrates
• Glucose
• High-fructose corn syrup
• Honey
• Invert sugar
• Lactose
• Maltose
• Malt syrup
• Molasses
• Raw sugar
• Sucrose
• Sugar
• Syrup

In general, to consume less sugar, we should aim to eat more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains and cut out the processed foods and sugary beverages.

Journal Reference:
James S. Ruff, Amanda K. Suchy, Sara A. Hugentobler, Mirtha M. Sosa, Bradley L. Schwartz, Linda C. Morrison, Sin H. Gieng, Mark K. Shigenaga, Wayne K. Potts. Human-relevant levels of added sugar consumption increase female mortality and lower male fitness in mice. Nature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3245

Additional Resources:
Harvard School of Public Health: How to Spot Added Sugar on Food Labels
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Consumption of Added Sugars Among US Adults 2005-2010

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