Sugar linked to early death, but not for the reason you think

Eating a diet high in sugary foods may result in an early death, but not for the reasons you think, a new study has found. Researchers with MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences studied fruit flies that were fed a diet high in sugar and found that though they died at younger ages, the reason wasn't due to metabolic issues like obesity or diabetes.

Many past studies have linked sugary foods with increased risk of some types of cancer and other health issues. Eating too much sugar can trigger the development of type-2 diabetes, fuel obesity, and cause other related metabolic issues that may shorten lifespan and reduce the quality of life.

The new study found that it may also cause another serious problem unrelated to issues typically found in diabetics. The excessive build-up of a natural waste product called uric acid was identified in fruit flies fed a high-sugar diet and linked to an early death.

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.

As with the flies, humans who ate high-sugar diets were also found to have higher amounts of blood purine, which breaks down into uric acid, as well as worse kidney function compared to people to ate a healthier diet. Uric acid levels can be used to predict future metabolic issues in humans like diabetes.

Of course, it's important to note that though the flies weren't dying earlier with improved hydration, they were still unhealthy. The high-sugar flies developed metabolic disease markers, including evidence of insulin resistance and excess weight. The researchers point out that people who eat too much sugar are at risk of other health issues beyond kidney disease, underscoring the need to eat a healthier diet in addition to staying properly hydrated.