Study: Soda-Drinking Mice Die Earlier

By on August 14, 2013
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Well, good thing this never quite happens to humans. Or does it? In an unusual study, a team of biologists raised a bunch of wild mice—not the docile lab mice most scientists use—on a healthy diet, plus a sugar mix that’s roughly equivalent to drinking three sodas a day as a human. Then, the scientists stuck their mice in a natural environment where they had to compete against wild mice that hadn’t been raised on the sugar water.

The research team found “soda”-drinking female mice had shorter lifespans. Their male counterparts fathered fewer pups, likely because they weren’t as good as males raised without sugar water at defending territories.

The study is the first to examine, in lab animals, the effects of added sugar intake at levels that are equivalent to what some humans normally consume, say the study’s authors, a team of U.S. biologists. Thirteen percent to 25 percent of Americans get a quarter of their daily caloriesfrom added sugar, just like the mice in this study. Scientists have vigorously debated the effects of such levels of sugar consumption on human health. Some call added sugar in the diet toxic. The scientific evidence about sugar is still developing, in part because previous animal studies aimed at finding the ill effects of sugar have always given mice and rats much more sugar than humans normally consume.

Wayne Potts, a biologist at the University of Utah and the study’s lead scientist, interprets his findings as a warning. “If it makes a mouse sick, then do you want it in your body? At least before we work out the mechanistic basis of that sickness and are able to evaluate whether it’s also going on in humans or if it’s an mouse-specific phenomenon,” he tells Popular Science.

Others are more conservative about linking mouse outcomes to what would happen in humans. “The way mice react to sweetness and sugar is different than humans,” Barry Popkin, a nutrition researcher at the University of North Carolina, wrote to us in an email. He added there’s no direct way to translate this work into human work.

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