The “hidden sugar” in our diets could be causing us to die younger, according to scientists.
A high-sugar diet reprograms the activity of a gene called FOXO, which plays an important role in longevity for a variety of animals including humans.
Now Dr Adam Dobson, from the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing, has warned that the “hidden sugar” found in everyday foods could be causing us to age faster.
He said: “The flies on our experiment were fed quite a lot of sugar, the rough equivalent of eating just cake every day for several years.
“But our results are not so far from reality because sugar is becoming more and more prevalent in the food supply.
“Hidden sugar often turns up in places that we wouldn’t expect, such as in foods and drinks that we might consider to be healthy.”
His experiment found a high-sugar diet can shorten life by as much as a twelfth in flies.
He said: “We’ve known for a little while that sugar has a negative effect on the lifespan of humans but until now we haven’t known why.
“What we’ve shown in flies is that sugar causes early death even after a healthy diet is resumed.
“And the new thing about this is study is we’ve found the mechanism behind it.
“The mechanism is a gene called FOXO, which we find particularly interesting because it seems to associated with accelerated ageing in a variety of species including humans.”
The gene FOXO also affects our digestive system, the daily functioning of our cells and the activity of other genes, he said.
He added: “If you take away FOXO from a fly, they can still survive but they are very unhealthy and tend to die much younger.”