- Dr. Nancy
Sugar, Inflammation and Disease
Inflammation is one of your body’s natural defense mechanisms. If you get sick or injured, acute inflammation can help your body protect and heal itself.
When inflammation is chronic and long-term, it’s a whole different story. There are many factors that can play a part in this type of inflammation, but one of the biggest culprits is sugar.
Eating sugar every day can lead to low-grade inflammation in your body. This might not sound so bad but it’s the type of inflammation that’s commonly linked to health problems and obesity.
It is the refined and processed added sugars that contribute to this — not the natural sugars that you find in fruits, vegetables, raw honey and unrefined maple syrup. Refined or processed sugars are added to processed food and beverages, so it’s not just about the white stuff you add yourself.
The Link between Sugar and Inflammation
Sugar promotes an acidic environment within the body. If your body is in a state of slight acidosis, you may have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, weak muscles, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and a host of other health problems.
Acid environments are favored by many parasites, fungi, Candida, viruses and cancer. This is not the platform on which to produce health and optimal function.
When your internal environment is in the acidic range it can set the stage for a depletion of vital minerals. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is triggered resulting in both accelerated aging and fat storage.
Acidity also flips the switch for cytokine production, spiking inflammation and free radical production. Because people who eat more refined sugar consume fewer fruits and vegetables, there is a lack of sufficient levels of antioxidants and minerals available to neutralize these free radicals. This leads to oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress and DNA damage lead to cell dysfunction. Chronic inflammation plays a role in every disease on the planet.
How Added Sugars Affect Your Body
So, what does sugar actually do to your body to encourage inflammation to develop?
Here are a few of the things that can happen if your diet is rich in refined and processed sugars, especially if your diet is unhealthy in other ways, too:
Increased gut permeability: Eating sugar can disrupt the microbiome and may affect the permeability of the intestinal walls (aka Leaky Gut). This means that undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria can pass through into the bloodstream. When this happens, they’re treated as foreign invaders in the body. The end result? Inflammation.
Formation of AGEs: Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are created as a result of protein and fat mixing with sugar in your bloodstream. If there are too many AGEs in your body, oxidative stress and inflammation are more likely.
Weight gain: Refined sugars are a major culprit in weight gain and obesity. This helps increase inflammation levels in the body. Sugar and artificial sweeteners shut down satiety hormones like leptin that stop you from feeling full. (Even if you’re consuming an abundance of food and calories!). This can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Greater risk of heart disease: Sugar, especially fructose, increases apolipoprotein B levels, creating “sticky” blood platelets that increase blood clotting, paving the way for stroke and heart attacks.
More potential for type 2 diabetes: Consuming sugar can make you more likely to develop metabolic imbalances. Many overweight or obese people also have some form of insulin resistance, which paves the way to Type 2 Diabetes.
Potential cancer risks: Studies on mice have shown that eating sugar can increase the risk of developing some types of cancer.
When you modify your diet to reduce sugar, you help to restore acid-base balance and lower inflammation as well as oxidative stress, reducing your risk for obesity and chronic disease.