The Health Dangers of Sugar

August 19, 2013

If the message that sugar is bad for you causes eye-rolling, it might be time to refocus those eyes.

Yes, I know everyone is tired of hearing how sugar is bad for you.  But there continues to be more actual research done to quantify just how bad it is.

If you consume 25% of your calories from added sugar, you just may die early and have less sex.  One could argue that too little of the latter would make you wish for the former.  This amount of added sugar to a diet has been shown to significantly shorten the lives of mice and decrease their interest in reproductive behavior.

Photo Credit: Crwr
What can we learn from these little guys?

A healthy dose of sugar is an unhealthy dose of sugar

And in case you think that 25% sugar is an unrealistic amount, it turns out that some leading organizations have unwisely recommended that amount of sugar in your diet. The National Research Council and The United States Institute of Medicine have recommended that added sugar be limited to 25% of energy intake. Oops.

The average American takes in 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day (about 88 grams), equal to 355 calories. For example, three cans of soda supply more than 400 calories from sugars.

And this refers to added sugars, by the way.  Not naturally occurring sugars like those found in fruit.

In the study just published, (Nature Communications, published online August 13, 2013), mice were fed a diet that had 25% added sugars. The females died at twice the normal rate and the males were less likely to reproduce or hold territory – a key behavior in mouse mating. The more territory a male defends, the more appealing he is to females.  The male mice were less motivated to engage in behaviors likely to increase their chances of reproductive success.

Were the mice fatter?

An interesting and powerful aspect of the results of this study is that the mice that died early were not more obese and did not have higher blood sugar, fasting insulin or triglyceride levels. The sugar-added female mice did have higher cholesterol and decreased ability to clear added sugar from their bloodstreams. In essence, there were no signals to indicate or predict that the mice were going to die prematurely.

Why do we always use mice in studies?

According to Wayne Potts (one of the study’s authors), there’s a direct connection between how mice and humans react to food and other substances. Approximately 80 percent of the substances which are toxic to mice are also toxic to humans.  That’s why it’s likely that humans fed a diet high in sugars would experience similar health issues.

There’s no free lunch

Even if you don’t “show” signs of a high sugar intake (maybe you’ve got “good” genes and can “eat whatever you want” – or so you think), it is clear that the more junk you eat, the worse life you live.  Maybe now we can finally start to set aside our infantile obsession with cupcakes and other high-added-sugar foods.  Is the cost in terms of years lost and quality of life lost really worth that doughnut?

Want to spend a week that will make the rest of your life better?  Join Jonathan live on a fitness cruise to Alaska where you will enjoy an amazing week of nature and nurture.  Four top fitness experts will cover everything you need to know to live better every day and be sure you own it.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get face time with experts who care enough to bring their best to help make you your best.  For details, click here.


Jonathan Ross — fitness expert for Discovery Fit & Health and creator of Aion Fitness — was voted Exercise TV's "Top Trainer" and named in Men's Journal magazine's list of Top 100 Trainers in America. His personal experiences with obesity — "800 pounds of parents" — directly inspired his fitness career. His ability to bring fitness to those who need it the most has made him a two-time Personal Trainer of the Year Award-Winner (ACE and IDEA). His book, Abs Revealed, is filled with cutting-edge exercises in a modern, intelligent approach to abdominal training. His leadership and fresh perspectives on fitness earn him praise as a frequent go-to source of credible fitness information.

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