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"Sugar & Mice" -- The Discovery Files

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When mice ate a diet of 25 percent extra sugar, females died at twice the normal rate and males were a quarter less likely to hold territory and reproduce, according to a toxicity test developed at the University of Utah.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Sugar takes some lumps (Sound effect: bloop-bloop sugar cubes in coffee)

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

You might have heard about studies where mice were fed large doses of sugar--at levels out of proportion to what we humans consume. Now, a study from the University of Utah shows refined sugar is toxic to mice at levels equivalent to what a quarter of Americans actually eat.

The team used its new test: The organismal performance assay. They bred 156 mice and kept both sexes apart. They fed half the males and half the females a normal diet and the other half the same diet but spiked with 25 percent added calories from sugar.

(Sound effect: mice in enclosure) After 26 weeks, the researchers placed all the mice in room-sized pens--a more realistic testing environment than the usual laboratory cages. These "mouse barns" let the mice compete naturally for mates and desirable territories.

After 32 weeks, the 'sugar-added' females' death rate was double the other females. Sugar daddy mice were a quarter less likely to hold territory and reproduce.

By the way, that 25 percent added-sugar diet is the upper limit of what's generally considered safe for people. It's the mouse equivalent of a healthy human diet plus three cans of soda a day. (Sound effect: 3 quick pop top opens) I guess their cans are just smaller. (Sound effect: squeak!)

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