Sugar; and its effect on inflammation in the body

Sugar, and its effect on inflammation in the body


We know that too much added sugar in the diet is bad for the waistline, but there’s another lesser-known side effect to caloric sweeteners; inflammation. Now inflammation is a perfectly natural response in the body as a first line of defense when you get injured or sick, but dietary causes of inflammation are something you want to avoid.

What does added sugar do to your body?

Everyone needs a certain amount of sugar a day to help with muscle and tissue function, but ideally you want to stick to natural sources found in fruit and milk. 

According to a study out of University Hospital Zurich, drinking just one can of soda, which contains 40 grams of added sugar, showed an increase in inflammatory markers, as well as insulin resistance and LDL cholesterol.1 

Refined carbohydrates like white bread have a similar pro-inflammatory effect on the body. Moreover, this inflammatory response is long-lasting and can cause detrimental, long-term effects such as weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes.2

        How does excess sugar cause inflammation?

        When there is too much added sugar in your diet, it will create a condition known as chronic, low-grade inflammation. In turn, this condition causes an increase or elevation in inflammatory markers that put the body at risk of developing harmful disease. For example:

        High LDL Cholesterol – Sugary diets promote the production of an inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein or CRP. High levels of CRP affect sugar and fat absorption, and can increase your levels of LDL cholesterol, putting you at risk of heart disease. 

        Oxidative Stress – Diets high in added sugar and refined carbohydrates create a rich environment for the production of harmful compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). An excess of AGEs will result in oxidative stress, inflammation, and disease. 

        Weight Gain – Too much sugar in the diet will eventually catch up to your waistline. Weight gain can trigger other issues, like insulin resistance and inflammation, precursors to diabetes. In addition, excess weight can place great stress on the joints, as well as the circulatory system, which in turn, can trigger an increase of inflammatory factors in your body.

        Leaky Gut – Sugar-loving microbiota found in your gastrointestinal tract thrive on refined carbohydrates. Fed on a diet high in sugar, these harmful bacteria will eventually out-number the healthy microbiota found in your gut, leading to a toxic environment that can be corrosive to your digestive tract lining. This is called leaky gut or increased gut permeability – a condition that allows undigested food to pass straight into your bloodstream, resulting in an inflammatory response and an increase in inflammatory markers.

            Reduce inflammation with healthy lifestyle changes

            When your body is in a condition of chronic, low-grade inflammation, it is like being in a stressful state of constant high alert. To help reduce inflammation in your body, there are a few lifestyle changes you can adopt: 

            • Reduce your dietary added sugars and refined carbohydrates.
            • Eat more anti-inflammatory foods.
            • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet, like the Mediterranean Diet.
            • Ensure you’re getting enough sleep every night.
            • Engage in regular exercise and strength training.
            • Manage your stress levels with meditation and relaxation techniques.
            • Maintain a healthy waistline with diet and exercise.
            • Add an anti-inflammatory supplement to your diet like turmeric.

            The link between sugar and inflammation is an important factor to consider when it comes to eating a healthy diet. Added sugars are a common ingredient in many packaged foods and beverages and these can quickly add up. With a few healthy lifestyle changes, like replacing refined carbohydrates with whole grains, and sugars with fresh fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, you can reduce inflammation and improve your health. 




            1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):479-85. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.111.013540.
            2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Sep;92(3):634-43. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29390.

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