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Study: Sugar shortens life span, hinders sex

Sugar, even at moderate levels, could be toxic to your health – or at least to your sex life, a new study says.

Scientists at the University of Utah looked at how sugar affected mice and found that the mouse equivalent of just three sugary sodas a day had significant negative effects on life span and competition for mates.

“That’s three sodas if the rest of your diet is pristine and sugar-free,” lead author and biologist James S. Ruff said. “And those are 12-ounce sodas, not double Big Gulps.”

Sugar-fed females died twice as quickly as control mice, which were fed the same total number of calories. While the sugar-fed males did not die more quickly, they had trouble competing against the control males for mates and were less likely to hold territory and reproduce.

The study was published online Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications.

For the rodents on the sweetened diet, sugar accounted for 25 percent of their total calorie intake. Up to a quarter of Americans consume that proportion of sugar in their diets. Previous studies that found harmful effects of sugar consumption tended to use unusually high amounts.

The latest findings “set a new standard for caution even at low doses of added sugar,” senior author and biologist Wayne Potts said.

About 80 percent of substances that are toxic in mice are toxic for people as well, said Potts, so it is likely that the effects of extra sugar could be similar in humans.

The researchers first fed 156 animals either sweetened or normal diets for 26 weeks. They then used room-size mouse barns where the animals could roam free instead of being confined in cages.

The scientists used this method because they thought it would be sensitive to the sociological and Darwinian effects of sugar – the mice must struggle for resources and need to be at their fittest to successfully compete.