Sugar, Inflammation, and Health
It’s no secret that sugar is bad for you. It spoils your teeth, packs on pounds around your belly, and provides zero nutrition. Unfortunately, these are the least of sugars crimes. The biggest reason why you should stop eating sugar is that it is one of the most pro-inflammatory foods, and current research suggests that chronic, body-wide inflammation is associated with many modern diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. So what role does a high-sugar diet play in chronic inflammation? In this article, we’ll delve into this and much more.
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing process.
Acute inflammation develops rapidly in response to an injury or infection. This type of inflammation tends to be good: It’s your body’s way of trying to fight off further damage while jump starting healing. It usually lasts a few days to a few weeks.
Chronic inflammation is long-term inflammation that occurs over months or years, and can increase your risk for serious diseases. It’s usually caused by unhealthy lifestyle factors like diet.
Some foods, like sugar can also cause inflammation in the body, which in small amounts is not too detrimental, but eating too many inflammatory foods or too much of any one such food may cause chronic low-grade inflammation which can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
People who take diets rich in refined sugar may be increasing their risk of chronic inflammation. Research suggests that when people eat and drink less sugar, inflammatory markers in their blood decrease.
A high sugar diet can have harmful effects on health, such as increasing the risk of chronic diseases, weight gain, and tooth decay, and it can also result in chronic inflammation causing the body’s immune system to activate resulting in damage to healthy cells. Inflammation as a result of lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, and a sedentary existence can contribute to a range of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.
When you consume excess added sugar and refined carbohydrates there will be a few changes in your body which help explain why a diet high in sugar can lead to chronic, low-grade inflammation.
It is important to note that inflammation is unlikely to be caused by sugar alone, so other factors like stress, medication, smoking, and excess fat intake need to be monitored or mitigated too.
A lot of research has been carried out to determine how sugar causes inflammation. Diets high in added sugar are thought to signal the production of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body which, over time can create an environment of chronic, low-grade inflammation and lead to trouble in the future. Sugar also stimulates the production of free fatty acids in the liver. When the body digests these free fatty acids, the resulting compounds can trigger inflammatory processes.
Different kinds of sugar may contribute more or less to inflammation. For instance, some research has suggested that fructose may cause more inflammation than glucose. However, a systematic review found no difference in inflammation from fructose and glucose, so more research is needed.
Also, the researchers saw no differences in inflammatory factors between the groups that consumed high fructose corn syrup versus table sugar (sucrose). The sample sizes were small, and the quality of the studies was low, so more research is necessary to confirm these findings too.
Below are some of the common signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation:
People with chronic inflammation may have an increased risk of diabetes, depression, and dementia, and in older adults, chronic inflammation may also be linked to a higher risk of death. Doctors are working on how to reduce chronic inflammation.
It’s important to note that there is a difference between added sugar and natural sugar. Added sugar is removed from its original source and added to foods and drinks to serve as a sweetener or increase shelf life. Added sugar comes from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sucrose or “table sugar”, fructose, glucose and corn sugar and is found mostly in processed foods and drinks.
Among US adults, around 13% of total calories come from added sugar. This is high, considering that government guidelines advise that no more than 5% to 15% of calories should come from both solid fats and added sugar.
Sugar found naturally in food, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk and dairy products, has not been linked to inflammation. In fact, foods with natural sugars, such as fruits and vegetables, may be anti-inflammatory, but adding processing to them is the equivalent of drinking sugar sweetened beverages, such as soda. For example, experts caution against processing fruit into juices because it removes the fiber and concentrates the sugar to a higher level per serving.
Inflammation is a critical component of metabolic syndrome and can lead to diseases like type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, non-alcoholic liver diseases and gout. Research suggests that eating excess sugar can lead to chronic inflammation.
In the United States, the amount of high fructose corn syrup people consume increased from 1978 to 1998 and then stabilized according to the Nationwide Food Consumption Surveys . With greater awareness of the risks of added sugar, sugar intake in the U.S. has been declining; nonetheless, people are still consuming too much sugar.
There are definitely changes you can make to minimize your inflammation risk which would include reducing your sugar intake. Here is our list to guide you to a healthier lifestyle.
Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce Inflammation