New study suggests that sugar in amounts commonly consumed can have adverse effects on mammalian health
August 13, 2013 - Oakland, CA – New research by scientists at the University of Utah, Arizona State University, and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) finds that the consumption of comparatively low amounts of sugar decreases the competitive performance and reproductive output of mice. The finding suggests that even low levels of sugar intake, which are commonly considered “safe,” can have negative health effects in mammals. The study appears this week in Nature Communications.
Assistant CHORI Scientist Dr. Mark Shigenaga, a collaborator on the study, says, “These results are particularly noteworthy because the adverse effects on mortality, behavior, and reproductive capacity occurred despite the absence of any apparent significant adverse metabolic effects.”
Animal experiments that study the detrimental health effects of sugar usually involve the consumption of sugar quantities that far exceed those consumed by humans. James Ruff and colleagues fed mice a healthy diet with a modest amount of added sugar. According to the researchers, this amount of sugar - roughly equivalent to a human consuming a healthy diet, plus three cans of soda (354 ml each) per day - is currently consumed by 13-25% of Americans. The mice, which showed only minor metabolic defects, were then put in semi-natural enclosures where they competed for territory, resources and mating partners with mice previously fed a normal diet. As common strains of laboratory mice do not show natural territorial behaviors, the researchers conducted the study with wild house mice. They show that male house mice fed the sugar-enriched diet controlled 26% fewer territories and produced 25% less offspring, while female house mice experienced a two-fold increase in overall mortality.
The findings represent the lowest level of sugar consumption shown to adversely affect mammalian health. The researchers caution, however, that further studies are needed to delineate the mechanisms responsible for the observed changes in fitness and mortality.
About Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, CA
Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland is Northern California’s only independent not-for-profit regional medical center for children. Children’s Hospital Oakland is a national leader in many pediatric specialties and sub-specialties including hematology/oncology, neonatology, cardiology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and neurosurgery. The hospital is one of only two solely designated California Level 1 pediatric trauma centers with the largest pediatric inpatient critical care unit in the region. Children’s Hospital has 190 licensed beds, 201 hospital-based physicians in 30 specialties, more than 2,700 employees, and an annual operating budget of more than $350 million. Children’s is also a premier teaching hospital with an outstanding pediatric residency program and a number of unique Pediatric subspecialty fellowship programs.
Research efforts at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland are coordinated through Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). CHORI’s internationally renowned biomedical research facility brings together seven centers of excellence that are devoted to clinical and basic science research to treat and prevent disease. CHORI has approximately 300 staff members and an annual budget of about $50 million. The National Institutes of Health is CHORI’s primary funding source and CHORI is ranked among the nation’s top 10 research centers for NIH funding to children’s hospitals. The institute is a leader in translational research, bringing bench discoveries to bedside applications. These include providing cures for blood diseases, developing new vaccines for infectious diseases and discovering new treatment protocols for previously fatal or debilitating conditions such as cancers, sickle cell disease and thalassemia, diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS, pediatric obesity, nutritional deficiencies, birth defects, hemophilia and cystic fibrosis. For more information, go to www.childrenshospitaloakland.org and www.chori.org.