No sooner had we blogged about sugar’s tendency to displace other nutrients in your diet, we ran across some other recent research suggesting that sugar may shorten your lifespan in more ways than you think.
Of course, sugar is a major contributor to tooth decay. It also fuels chronic inflammation – one of the ways in which gum disease is linked to systemic problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline.
Now researchers with the London Institute of Medical Sciences suggest that sugar may shorten your life even if neither obesity nor diabetes is a factor.
They began by studying fruit flies that were fed a diet high in sugar. They saw that while the flies died younger, it wasn’t necessarily due to metabolic issues. They saw higher uric acid levels in the fruit flies that died.
The researchers point out that excessive sugar consumption can have the same type of dehydrating effect as salt — that’s why one of the early symptoms of type-2 diabetes is dry mouth. This could lead to the excessive accumulation of uric acid and the formation of kidney stones. The researchers found that by giving the fruit flies extra water, they eliminated the reduced lifespan.
To connect this research with the impact of sugar on human health, the researchers collaborated with scientists from Germany’s Kiel University to study the influence of a diet in healthy human volunteers.
“Strikingly, just like flies, we found that dietary sugar intake in humans was associated with worse kidney function and higher purine levels in the blood,” says co-author Professor Christoph Kaleta.
In humans, high uric acid levels can lead to both kidney stones and gout.
The solution isn’t to just drink more water, lead author Dr. Helena Cochemé cautioned. The solution is less sugar. “The sugar-fed flies may live longer when we give them access to water, but they are still unhealthy,” she said.
There is substantial evidence that what we eat influences our life expectancy and our risk for age-related diseases.