Does Sugar Cause Inflammation in the Body?

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing process.

During injury or infection, the body releases chemicals to help protect it and fight off any harmful organisms. This can cause redness, warmth and swelling.

Let’s look at the role of sugar and inflammation in the body.

Consuming too much added sugar and refined carbohydrates is linked with elevated inflammation in the body as well as insulin resistance and weight gain.

Excess consumption of added sugar and refined carbohydrates is linked to increased AGE production, gut permeability, LDL cholesterol, inflammatory markers and weight gain. All of these factors can trigger low-grade chronic inflammation.

The low-fat “revolution” did us a disservice.

The first dietary guidelines for Americans were published in 1977, giving birth to the low-fat “revolution.” Despite the fact that science does not support the notion that higher intakes of certain fats are unhealthy, the movement had other consequences as well. Removing fat content from foods negatively influences taste appeal. The industry came up with a solution. Add more sugar. Several studies have shown that sugar intake has many of the features of addiction. Which means that increasing more sugar was craved and added to nearly all foodstuff.

So, while the primary emphasis was on limiting the intake of saturated fat, attention was diverted away from the perils of high sugar intake.

Today, people are eating massive amounts of added sugars, usually without even realizing it.

According to Dr. Stephan Guyenet, in the year 1822 we ate the equivalent of a 12 ounce can of soda every 5 days.

Today, Americans are eating the equivalent of a 12 ounce can of soda every 7 hours, or about 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, or 355 calories.

According to a team of health scientists from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), experts worldwide have made consistent recommendations on daily sugar intake. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men. The AHA limits for children vary depending on their age and caloric needs, but range between 3-6 teaspoons (12 – 25 grams) per day. That is in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation that no more than 10% of an adult’s calories – and ideally less than 5% – should come from added sugar or from natural sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juice. For a 2,000-calorie diet, 5% would be 25 grams.

Excess sugar is linked to elevated inflammation and chronic diseases.

Observational studies have linked excess added sugar consumption to the development of several chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer.

The problem with sugar intake is that it causes a spike in blood sugar levels and apparent energy, which dissipates quickly and moves into the low blood sugar range and energy an hour later, compared to levels that stay within healthy range and stable after consuming complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. Our bodies struggle to compensate when subjected to biological instabilities, and some results are insulin resistance, elevated inflammation, increased energy storage in the fat cells, and a weakened immune system.

Replacing foods and drinks high in added sugar and refined carbohydrates may help lower inflammatory markers. Including whole foods in your diet can also help fight inflammation.

Limit sugar, exercise, and manage stress.

There are several things you can do to help fight inflammation, including exercising regularly and effectively managing your stress levels.

Furthermore, cut down on processed foods and drinks, choose whole foods, and limit your intake of added sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Choose whole-grain carbs: These include oats, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa and barley. They have lots of fiber and antioxidants, which can help control blood sugar and protect against inflammation.

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which can protect against and reduce inflammation in the body. Eat lots of antioxidant-rich foods. Fill your plate with foods rich in antioxidants, which naturally help counteract inflammation. These include nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish and olive oil.


About Joan Swart, PsyD, Forensic Psychologist and lecturer

Joan Swart is a forensic psychologist, lecturer, and business developer at Open Forest LLC. She authored two books titled “Treating Adolescents with Family-Based Mindfulness” (Springer, 2015) and “Homicide: A Forensic Psychology Casebook” (CRC, 2016). She is a contributor to Hubpages and HuffPost.

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Latest update: August 22, 2018
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