I’m no fan of sugar. I’ve been writing about the ill effects of sugar on the body for years.
But the latest research delving into sugar’s influence on your health still has me stunned. There’s just about no part of the human anatomy that sugar doesn’t harm.
Let’s take a closer look at the new scientific revelations.
In one of the most recent studies of sugar’s impact on your body, researchers at Swansea University in the United Kingdom, in conjunction with other scientists in England, have shown that our huge consumption of high fructose corn syrup can damage the immune system in ways that triggers harmful, chronic inflammation.
Cancer and Liver Damage
These lab tests show that immune cells called monocytes are inflamed by fructose, and as a result, are more likely to attack the body’s own organs. What’s more, these immune cells are no longer able to do the job they’re designed for, which is to battle infections or eliminate the cancerous cells that create life-threatening tumors.
Scientists concluded that fructose alters immune cells so that they contribute to an increased risk of cancer and liver damage instead of fighting these conditions.1
Now, that’s alarming! But there was another big surprise.
Researchers at the University of California-Davis reported that because high fructose corn syrup combines fructose with glucose, it gives rise to additional health problems that don’t happen when the two are consumed separately.
For instance, studies show that high fructose corn syrup damages your heart.2
“It turns out that the combination of fructose and glucose found in high fructose corn syrup appears to be worse than fructose alone for some heart disease risk factors,” warns researcher Kimber Stanhope. “When we planned this study, we didn’t expect to find this.”
Dr. Stanhope explains that taking in large amounts of fructose leads the liver to produce uric acid and the blood fats called triglycerides – both of which increase your chances of fatty liver, heart disease and gout.
But the glucose further complicates the picture – and increases risk of heart disease even more. In other words, glucose is not a benign bystander in high fructose corn syrup.
And the bad news about sugar just keeps on coming.
Sugar Worsens MS Symptoms
Research in Germany indicates that when people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) consume about 290 calories or so of sugar sweetened beverages daily, they’re five times more likely to suffer severe MS symptoms and a higher level of disability compared to those who don’t indulge in these drinks.3 (For reference – 290 calories is about the amount found in two cans of soda.)
The beverages that worry the researchers include soft drinks, fruit juices and fruit drinks as well as sweetened coffees and teas.
There’s also alarming new research on sugar’s impact on your stomach and digestive tract.
Almost Instant Digestive Damage
When researchers in Canada designed a lab test to find out how fast a high sugar diet can damage the digestive tract and trigger inflammatory bowel disease, they were taken aback by what they found.
Their results demonstrated that it could happen in only two days!4
“We wanted to know how long it takes before a change in diet translates into an impact on health,” says researcher Karen Madsen of the University of Alberta. “In the case of sugar and colitis, it only took two days, which was really surprising to us. We didn’t think it would happen so quickly.”
Dr. Madsen warns that eating a high-sugar diet and not much fiber feeds harmful bacteria in the digestive tract like E. coli – and that increases inflammation and prevents proper function of the immune system.
“Surprisingly, our study shows that short-term sugar consumption can really have a detrimental impact,” she says. “And so this idea that it’s OK to eat well all week and indulge in junk food on the weekend is flawed.”
If that wasn’t enough to inspire you to control your sweet tooth, there’s more. Additional studies found:
Eating a lot of sugar results in fat deposits around the heart: Research at the University of Minnesota indicates that a high sugar diet leads the body to deposit extra fat around the heart and waistline that increases inflammation. And, that inflammation also makes you more susceptible to heart problems and other illness.5
People with high blood sugar may be more likely to die from COVID-19: In a preliminary study, scientists at the University of Michigan say the inflammatory effects of high blood sugar can increase the severity of a COVID-19 infection.
“When the body becomes this inflamed,” warns researcher Rodica Pop-Busui, “it triggers an abnormal immune response that instead of just attacking the virus, affects the rest of the body’s healthy cells and tissue, leading to rapid deterioration in health.”6
What to Do Instead?
I understand the allure of sugar. It seems to be hardwired into our taste buds. But the damage sugar can do to our bodies is scientifically proven.
Fortunately, there are a number of safe, natural sugar substitutes that do not raise your body’s blood sugar like high fructose corn syrup or refined white sugar. Yacon syrup and stevia are popular sugar substitutes. While you still don’t want to go overboard with any natural substitute, they will allow you to enjoy something sweet more safely.
And when it comes to soft drinks, just say no.
An even better idea is to wean yourself off all sweeteners and learn to enjoy whole fruit and natural, unsweetened foods of all kinds. Coffee and tea, for example, are delicious without any help from sugar. It’s just a habit, and a bad one. I absolutely believe sugar is addictive. I find when I have a little, it stimulates a craving for more, and if I don’t pay attention I go into a sort of feeding frenzy.
Dr. Lynn Steffen of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health advises everyone to ditch soft drinks and processed juices.
“Have water instead of sugary drinks and choose healthier snacks over foods rich in added sugar like cakes,” says Dr. Steffen. “Read food labels to check the amount of added sugar in what you are buying. Look for (and avoid) ingredients like syrups, glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose. Being more aware of hidden sugar will help you cut back.”
And now is as good a time as any to remind you that processed foods almost always have added sugar of some kind. Instead of processed meals and snacks, choose to eat a natural, whole-food diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains and lean meats.