A sugar rush could be dangerous to more than your waistline, according to a new study from the University of Utah.

Researchers found that male mice fed a diet with 25 percent extra sugar — equivalent to about an additional three cans of soda a day in humans — were less likely to defend their territory and reproduce, while female mice on the same diet died at twice the normal rate. The results are similar to the lab's findings on inbreeding in mice.

"Would you rather be on the American diet ... or have parents be full cousins?" said senior author Wayne Potts, a biology professor. "This data is telling us it's a toss up."

The research was published online in the journal Nature Communications.

Studies indicate that 13 to 25 percent of Americans get a quarter or more of their calories from added sugars, which also include candy, cookies, fruit drinks and ice cream. While previous studies have found sugar has a toxic effect, they generally used amounts much higher than most people actually eat, said the study's first author, James Ruff.

"I think the big takeaway is the level of sugar we readily eat and think is safe causes major health declines in mice," said Ruff, who recently earned his doctorate at the U. "We're not just talking about some minor metabolic thing. We're taking about increased rates of death and [lower rates] of reproduction."

When Ruff and Potts gave mice the equivalent of about 500 calories of sugar on a 2,000 daily calorie diet for about six months, one interesting result was what didn't happen: The high-sugar mice weren't fatter.

"Our mice would have passed their physical," Ruff said, but "still have negative health impacts."

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