Is There Any Safe Level of Sugar?
As the American public continues to consume increasing levels of sugars, a study published just recently in Nature Communications shows that the accepted safe sugar levels for humans might not be so clear cut as previously thought.
Wayne Potts is an evolutionary biologist working in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah and says, “Nobody has been able to show adverse effects at human-relevant levels.”
That could be all set to change.
Mr Potts and his fellow researchers reproduced in mice a diet of 25% calories from sugar. They captured a pair of mice, bred them and then performed the experiment on their offspring. This was to mimic the diets of the 13-25% of the American population who consume sugar at the level recommended as the maximum safe level by the US Department of Agriculture (as claimed by the study’s authors).
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Now 25% of calories from sugar may seem like quite a large amount but it really equates to just 3 cans of sweetened drinks each day and having no other sugar in the diet at all. When many people consider their own diet, they may in fact find that they are consuming far more sugar each day than the recommended maximum.
Too much sugar in the diet is generally accepted as being bad for you and can result in obesity, heart disease and the development of diabetes. To date, researchers have been unable to determine exactly what it is about excess sugar consumption that causes these effects. So far experimentation with mice has used extremely high doses that don’t correlate to equivalent amounts in the human diet, leaving the questions about sugar consumption still unanswered.
The new study, done on the mice by Potts and his research team, showed that female mice were twice as likely to die during the study. The male mice suffered similar detrimental effects. Males produced around 25 percent less offspring than those in the control group. They were also likely to have 25 percent less territory than male mice who were not fed a diet higher in sugar calories.
The mice were fed the special diet for 26 weeks and then released with the control group and studied for another 6 weeks.
Unfortunately the study was not able to confirm what the higher numbers of female mice died from. The researchers stated that collecting the bodies of the deceased females would have disrupted the experiment once the mice were released, with the control group, into the habitat used for the experiment. Further study is required to determine exactly what could have caused this increase in deaths.
The mice were monitored during the experimental stages. Being able to reproduce the competition that occurs in natural colonies of mice allowed the researchers to see that there were indeed effects on the experimental group. Effects that couldn’t be detected by normal pathways. Seven markers that indicate health were monitored for both the sugar-fed and the control mice. Between the two groups, five markers were discovered to be identical.
Warren Potts and co-author of the study, James Ruffs, are sure the results of their study indicate that safe levels of sugar consumption should have their recommended levels reviewed and lowered. “If I show that something hurts mice, do you really want it in your body before we’ve determined whether it’s a mouse-only problem?” asks Potts.
The U.N. has previously announced that tobacco, alcohol and diet are the main risk factors for non-communicable diseases; and some now claim that sugar levels in the diet should be controlled through raised taxes, limits of advertising and regulation of age limits to purchase certain items.
Symptoms of excess sugar consumption are easily overlooked. They include:
- Increased tiredness. You’d think you would have increased energy from eating sugar; however, your body won’t be able to process it all and you won’t be left with any extra.
- A need to urinate frequently. Excess sugar causes your kidneys to start working harder to clear the extra sugar from your body.
- Extra thirst. All of that urination will, in turn, make you extra thirsty!
And then there’s the big one. Developing diabetes. Too much sugar in your diet can cause your body to lose its ability to use insulin or cause you to stop producing your own insulin. Many people think only the obese develop diabetes, but this is definitely not the case. In fact, you can start to lose weight when you develop diabetes.
Whatever the final effects of this study, it remains clear that people are ultimately responsible for the amount of sugar they consume each day. Regardless of the maximum amount recommended by a regulator, each person decides exactly what they will eat and what portion of their diet is sugar.