Fructose more toxic than table sugar
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Fructose more toxic than table sugar

Published On: Mon, Jan 5th, 2015 | Food & Nutrition | By BioNews

High-fructose corn syrup found in many processed foods is more toxic than sucrose or table sugar , a new study in mice has found.

University of Utah biologists fed mice sugar in doses proportional to what many people eat, the fructose-glucose mixture found in high-fructose corn syrup was more toxic than sucrose or table sugar, reducing both the reproduction and lifespan of female rodents.

“This is the most robust study showing there is a difference between high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar at human-relevant doses,” said biology professor Wayne Potts, senior author of the study.

The study found no differences in survival, reproduction or territoriality of male mice on the high-fructose and sucrose diets. The researchers say that may be because both sugars are equally toxic to male mice.

Both high-fructose corn syrup found in many processed foods and table sugar found in baked goods contain roughly equal amounts of fructose and glucose.

A 'mouse barn' such as the one shown here at the University of Utah is the heart of a new, sensitive toxicity test that allows house-type mice to compete in a seminatural environment so researchers can measure how exposure to sugar, medicines and other substances affects the mice in terms of their survival, reproduction and ability to hold territory. The blue tubs and green trays are nesting boxes, protected and unprotected, respectively. The feeding stations (vertical tubes) have sensor rings around them to detect transmitter chips implanted in male mice -- a way to determine which males hold which territories. Image Credit: Douglas Cornwall, University of Utah

A ‘mouse barn’ such as the one shown here at the University of Utah is the heart of a new, sensitive toxicity test that allows house-type mice to compete in a seminatural environment so researchers can measure how exposure to sugar, medicines and other substances affects the mice in terms of their survival, reproduction and ability to hold territory. The blue tubs and green trays are nesting boxes, protected and unprotected, respectively. The feeding stations (vertical tubes) have sensor rings around them to detect transmitter chips implanted in male mice — a way to determine which males hold which territories. Image Credit: Douglas Cornwall, University of Utah

But in corn syrup, they are separate molecules, called monosaccharides. In contrast, sucrose or table sugar is a disaccharide compound formed when fructose and glucose bond chemically.

The new study is the latest in a series that used a new, sensitive toxicity test developed by Potts and colleagues. It allows house mice to compete in the semi-natural environment of room-size “mouse barns.”

The study compared two groups of mice that were fed a healthy diet with 25 per cent calories from processed sugars. One group ate a mix of fructose-glucose monosaccharides like those in high-fructose corn syrup. The other group ate sucrose.

Female mice on the fructose-glucose diet had death rates 1.87 times higher than females on the sucrose diet. They also produced 26.4 per cent fewer offspring.

The new study found no differences in males on the two diets in terms of survival, reproduction or ability to compete for territory.

But Potts said a 2013 study showed male mice were a quarter less likely to hold territory and reproduce on the fructose-glucose mix compared with starch.

That, combined with the new findings, “suggests sucrose is as bad for males as high-fructose corn syrup,” he said.

Ruff said it also is possible that “other factors are more important than the differences between these two diets for the males” – possibly inherited differences in ability to hold territory.

Potts said female mice that ate the fructose-glucose mixture may be more likely to die than male mice because they undergo a bigger metabolic “energy crunch” during such studies: on the day they give birth, they mate and conceive the next litter, so they are nursing their first litter while gestating a second litter.

An estimated 13 percent to 25 percent of Americans eat a diet that includes 25 percent or more of calories in the form of added sugars – the percentage of added sugars consumed by mice in the new study. “Added sugars” are sugars added during food processing or preparation and not already naturally in food, like in a piece of fruit.

The mice in the new study were unrelated, house-type mice, rather than inbred lab mice, because the former compete with each other naturally. For about 40 weeks, mice were fed either the healthy diet with 25 percent of total calories as added fructose and glucose monosaccharides or as sucrose.

Then 160 mice were released into six mouse barns to compete for food, territory and mates for 32 weeks. Each of the 377-square-foot mouse barns held eight to 10 male mice and 14 to 20 females.

Each mouse barn was divided by wire mesh into six territories, each with either an open or protected nest box. Males competed for the better territories and protected nests. Implanted radio chips and antennas at feeders kept track of where mice fed and thus the territories they occupied. The researchers periodically checked for and removed dead mice, as well as pups so they would not breed.

After eating different sugar diets before entering the mouse barns, all the mice ate the fructose-glucose monosaccharide diet while competing in the barns, where they roamed together and couldn’t be kept on different diets. If there were harmful effects from the fructose-glucose diet before entering the mouse barns, they might be obscured if all the mice ate the sucrose diet once in the barns.

The study was published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Reference:

James S Ruff, Sara A Hugentobler, Amanda K Suchy, Mirtha M Sosa, Ruth E Tanner, Megumi E Hite, Linda C Morrison, Sin H Gieng, Mark K Shigenaga, and Wayne K Potts. Compared to Sucrose, Previous Consumption of Fructose and Glucose Monosaccharides Reduces Survival and Fitness of Female Mice. J. Nutr. 2015 jn.114.202531; first published online December 10, 2014. doi:10.3945/jn.114.202531

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