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U of U study demonstrates potential dangers of diets heavy in sugar

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Posted at 10:21 PM, Aug 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-19 00:21:37-04

SALT LAKE CITY – A study conducted at the University of Utah examined the effects of increased sugar intake among mice, and the results are shocking.

James Ruff is a post-doctoral student at the University of Utah involved with the project, and he said the sugar increase was bad for the rodents.

“The sugar has done something to their physiological systems that make them worse at competing--worse at dealing with the day-to-day struggles of mouse life,” he said.

Ruff said an average mouse lives for a year, and he said they did a life-long study on the animals to look at the effects of chronic sugar consumption. He said a 25 percent increase in sugar changed the way mice lived in a contained, natural habitat.

"It makes the male not be able to give it their all every day in order to have and defend and maintain one of these territories, and it makes it harder for the females to do the incredibly intensive things they have to do--forage for food, gestate, and there's pups, which is incredibly taxing,” he said.

The mortality rate in female mice went from 17 percent to 35 percent, and male mice produced 25 percent fewer offspring compared to mice on a controlled diet.

Doctor Wayne Potts is a biology professor at the University of Utah, and he said the impact of the sugar was more significant than he expected.

"I was surprised how big the effect was that we are actually talking about mortality,” he said. “That's a pretty big kind of end-point."

A study on inbred mice was also performed, and researchers said the effects of increased sugar were similar to what was seen among inbred mice.

"The inbred mice, or the mice on the added sugar diet, lose about 30 percent of their health and fitness and reproductive output,” Potts said.

Potts said the study has already changed lives, at least in his family.

"The biggest impact is on my 15-year-old son’s life, who pretty much ignores what I tell him, but he promised that when this study was published, which is today, that he would go cold turkey on the sugary drinks,” he said.

U of U researchers said that while mice and humans have different physiological makeups, they are close enough that the side effects of sugar might be something people should consider eliminating from their diet.