Human-relevant levels of added sugar consumption increase female mortality and lower male fitness in mice

  • Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2245 (2013)
  • doi:10.1038/ncomms3245
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Consumption of added sugar has increased over recent decades and is correlated with numerous diseases. Rodent models have elucidated mechanisms of toxicity, but only at concentrations beyond typical human exposure. Here we show that comparatively low levels of added sugar consumption have substantial negative effects on mouse survival, competitive ability, and reproduction. Using Organismal Performance Assays—in which mice fed human-relevant concentrations of added sugar (25% kcal from a mixture of fructose and glucose, modeling high fructose corn syrup) and control mice compete in seminatural enclosures for territories, resources and mates—we demonstrate that fructose/glucose-fed females experience a twofold increase in mortality while fructose/glucose-fed males control 26% fewer territories and produce 25% less offspring. These findings represent the lowest level of sugar consumption shown to adversely affect mammalian health. Clinical defects of fructose/glucose-fed mice were decreased glucose clearance and increased fasting cholesterol. Our data highlight that physiological adversity can exist when clinical disruptions are minor, and suggest that Organismal Performance Assays represent a promising technique for unmasking negative effects of toxicants.

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We thank B. Ames for suggesting we apply OPAs to added sugar; D. Dearing and A. Torregrossa for aid in experimental design; S. Laverty for statistical modelling assistance; P. Ault, S. Ault, D. Pearson and R. Tanner for help in data collection; and J. McCann for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by NIH Grant RO1-GM039578 and was partially conducted while W.K.P. was supported by NSF Grant DEB 09-18969. J.S.R. was supported by an NSF GK-12 Educational Outreach Fellowship (DGE 08-41233). M.M.S. was supported by the NSF funded Western Alliance to Expand Student Opportunities (WAESO (HRD-1101728)).

Author information


  1. Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA

    • James S. Ruff
    • , Amanda K. Suchy
    • , Sara A. Hugentobler
    • , Mirtha M. Sosa
    • , Bradley L. Schwartz
    • , Linda C. Morrison
    •  & Wayne K. Potts
  2. School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, 427 East Tyler Mall, Tempe, Arizona 85287, USA

    • Amanda K. Suchy
  3. Nutrition and Metabolism Center, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, 5700 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, California 94609, USA

    • Sin H. Gieng
    •  & Mark K. Shigenaga


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J.S.R., M.K.S. and W.K.P. designed the experiment. J.S.R., A.K.S., S.A.H., M.M.S., B.L.S. and L.C.M. maintained OPA enclosures and collected the associated data. J.S.R. and A.K.S. collected plasma. S.H.G. obtained plasma measures. J.S.R. analysed data and wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed results and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James S. Ruff.

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    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures S1-S3, Supplementary Tables S1-S4, Supplementary Methods and Supplementary References


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