Not So Sweet: The Sugar-Inflammation Connection

Not So Sweet: The Sugar-Inflammation Connection

Inflammation plays a key role in the immune system.1 This physiological process, the inflammatory response, is the body’s way of protecting itself from infection due to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other foreign substances.2 Inflammation plays a key role in the body’s natural healing process.1,2

While inflammation is natural—it is necessary in many cases—not all inflammatory responses are created equal.Sometimes the body might be inflamed when there are no foreign invaders the immune system needs to fight.2

Far too often, refined sugar is partly responsible.1 So if you have a serious sweet tooth and experience symptoms like redness, joint or muscle stiffness, fatigue, and loss of appetite, you may have fallen victim to the sugar-inflammation connection.1

How does added sugar cause inflammation?

Consistently eating high quantities of refined sugar can cause chronic, low-grade inflammation.1 This may lead to serious health issues like cardiovascular challenges, weight gain, or allergies.1,2

Specifically, added sugar promotes the following changes in the body:

While the government recommends that added sugar and solid fats combined account for no more than 5% to 15% of one’s total caloric intake, 13% of US adults’ total calories come from processed sugar.4 All of the above symptoms are linked to chronic, low-grade inflammation. That said, it’s worth noting that added sugar consumption alone is unlikely to cause severe inflammation; often, there are a number of factors at play.1

How can you support a healthier inflammation response?

Lifestyle changes can address some of the symptoms mentioned above.1 Examples include: eliminating junk food from your diet, reducing your general stress levels, and so much more.1

Regardless, you will want to take stock of where you are at and make a conscious effort to improve your health.1 Read through the following list to see if there are areas where you can enhance your lifestyle:1,5

Returning to the topic of sugar, there’s no need to give up the sweet stuff entirely. You might consider substituting processed sweets with naturally sweetened alternatives in order to reduce your inflammatory symptoms.1 The next section explains how natural sugars like honey and maple syrup may decrease inflammation.

Natural sugars and inflammation

Chances are you’re familiar with refined sugar and how it differs from the natural alternatives. Where refined sugar is separated from its source, reconfigured, and then added as a sweetener, natural sugar occurs—you guessed it—naturally in foods.1 This means it is sourced directly from a whole plant source.1

Whole foods like fruit and dairy products feature varying amounts of fructose and lactose—yet they’re also full of fiber, protein, and nutrients, so the body is equipped to process them efficiently.1 Natural sugar is not associated with inflammation.1 It is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps to minimize blood sugar spikes.1

What does this mean? The verdict is that consuming natural sugar, within moderation, is just fine from a health and wellness standpoint.1 Added sugar, alternatively, should only be eaten rarely and in limited quantities.1 Please contact your doctor if your inflammatory symptoms persist even after eliminating refined sugar from your diet.

For more information on nutrition and general wellness topics, please visit the Metagenics blog.


  1. Brown MJ. Healthline. Accessed July 18, 2019.
  2. WebMD Staff. WebMD. Accessed July 22, 2019.
  3. Uribarri J et al. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(6):911–16.e12. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.018
  4. Nordqvist C. Medical News Today. Accessed July 22, 2019.
  5. Brymora A et al. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2012;27(2):608-612.

Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team


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