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expert reaction to study on sugary food and drink intake and weight gain in mice

Research, published in Molecular Metabolism, reports that sugary drinks are associated with weight gain in mice, whereas sugary food is not.


Prof Tom Sanders, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics, King’s College London (KCL), said:

“This is an observation that has been known for some time to occur in mice. A model widely used to produce obesity in mice is to allow them unlimited access to condensed milk as well as pelleted food. They almost become addicted to the sweetened milk and land up getting an excess energy intake provided by the sweetened milk and cut down on their intake pelleted diet. What this study does not report is whether the mice given the sugar as liquid consumed more calories than when provided with the sugar in solid food. The human observational studies only show a clear relationship with weight gain between sugar provided as a drink but not with sugar in solid food. It seems the intake of food energy provided by palatable drinks is poorly regulated in both mice and men.”


Prof Gunter Kuhnle, Professor of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Reading, said:

“This is a very interesting study, especially as the role of sugar-sweetened beverages in the development of obesity is very important. Studies in humans have shown that sugar-sweetened beverages increase energy intake, and this study investigates this further and confirms these findings. The main limitations of the study are a) that it has been conducted in mice, which makes it always difficult to translate result – although conducting such a study in humans would be difficult, and b) that the sugar drink used contained 50% sugar which is much higher than most drinks humans would consume (twice as much sugar as many milk shakes, 5-times more sugar than a cola drink or 10-times more than the new reformulated IRN BRU).

“However, despite these limitations this study clearly highlights the needs for a better understanding the underlying reasons for excess food intake and how they can be modified. It is in agreement with previous results by our group that showed that sugar intake is strongly associated with weight-gain, independent of total energy intake.”


Dr Duane Mellor, Registered Dietitian and Senior Teaching Fellow, Aston Medical School, Aston University, said:

“Although this research is only in animals, it agrees well with the other evidence which supports current UK policy such as the soft drinks industry levee (sugar tax) which is designed to nudge people towards drinks without added sugar.”


‘Impact of dietary sucrose on adiposity and glucose homeostasis in C57BL/6J mice depends on mode of ingestion: liquid or solid’ by Jacques Togo et al. in Molecular Metabolism. It is embargoed until at 00:01 UK time on Friday 10th October.



Declared interests

Prof Gunter Kuhnle:  No conflict of interest to declare.

None others received.

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