How Much Sugar Do Hummingbirds Need?

Hummingbirds never seem to sit still, but neither would you if you drank a can of Coke every minute. That's the amount of sugar-sweet cola you'd need to consume if you had the same metabolism as the world's tiniest bird.

If humans had the same metabolism as hummingbirds, we'd need to drink the equivalent of a can of Coke every minute.
If humans had the same metabolism as hummingbirds, we'd need to drink the equivalent of a can of Coke every minute.

Recent research from the University of Toronto Scarborough found that while hummingbirds require a lot of sugar to survive, they use it more efficiently than any other creature by burning both components of sugar: fructose and glucose. "Hummingbirds have an optimal fuel-use strategy that powers their high-energy lifestyle, maximizes fat storage, and minimizes unnecessary weight gain all at the same time," said Kenneth Welch, as assistant professor at the university.

Unlike humans, who burn sugar much more slowly because most of it is turned into fat after being processed by the liver, a hummingbird's muscles can immediately put it to use. Welch and his colleagues are trying to find out how, in hopes of working on ways to make sugar more beneficial to people, rather than contributing to the obesity epidemic. "If we can gain insights on how hummingbirds cope with an extreme diet then maybe it can shed some light on what goes wrong in us when we have too much fructose in our diet," he said.

How about hummingbirds:

  • The hummingbird is the only bird that can fly backward.

  • Hummingbirds have excellent color vision, which can help them find good flowers, but they have no sense of smell.

  • Hummingbirds are believed to return on a regular basis to the place they were born.

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    • If humans had the same metabolism as hummingbirds, we'd need to drink the equivalent of a can of Coke every minute.
      If humans had the same metabolism as hummingbirds, we'd need to drink the equivalent of a can of Coke every minute.