Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on February 25, 2023

Does Sugar Cause Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural response of the body to injury or infection, but when it becomes chronic, it can lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

One of the lifestyle factors that has been linked to chronic inflammation is a high intake of sugar. But, does sugar cause inflammation?

In this article, we will explore the relationship between sugar and inflammation, and how consuming too much sugar can affect the body. By understanding the effects of sugar on the body, you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing chronic inflammation and improve your overall health.

Does Sugar Cause Inflammation?

Excessive sugar intake has been linked to increased levels of inflammation in the body. When large amounts of added sugar are consumed, the body’s insulin levels rise quickly, leading to oxidative stress, which is one of the major causes of inflammation.

Research has shown that a high-sugar diet can increase the production of certain cytokines, which are proteins that play a role in the inflammatory response. Over time, this can lead to systemic inflammation, which can contribute to the development of chronic health problems.

Additionally, added sugar has been shown to disrupt the gut microbiome, which can further contribute to inflammation in the body. If this happens, you should be aware of the various signs of inflammation so you know how to treat them.

One of the largest studies on the topic was the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which found that people who consumed more sugar, particularly from sugary drinks, had higher levels of markers of inflammation in their blood.

Natural Sugar vs Added Sugar

As far as inflammation in the body is concerned, the main difference between natural and added sugars is the amount consumed and the way they are processed by the body.

  • Natural sugar, also known as intrinsic sugar, is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. These foods are often anti-inflammatory. Natural sugars are typically consumed in smaller quantities and are accompanied by fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This leads to slow and steady absorption, lessening the likelihood of dramatic insulin spikes.
  • Added sugar, also known as extrinsic sugar, is sugar that is added to food and drinks during processing or preparation. Added sugars are often ingested in large quantities and lack the nutrients found in natural sugars. This can lead to a spike in blood sugar levels and an increase in inflammation.

How Fast Does Sugar Cause Inflammation?

The speed at which added sugar can cause inflammation in the body varies depending on several factors, including the amount of sugar consumed, the individual’s overall health, and other lifestyle and dietary factors.

However, it is generally believed that taking in large amounts of sugar in a short period, such as from sugary drinks, can cause a rapid and significant increase in inflammation levels in the body.

On the other hand, consuming moderate amounts of sugar over a longer period, such as from a diet high in added sugars, can lead to a more gradual increase in inflammation levels.

It’s important to note that everyone’s body is different and the speed at which sugar causes inflammation can vary greatly from person to person.

Does Eliminating Sugar Help With Inflammation?

Eliminating added sugar from the diet can help with reducing inflammation in the body, and is generally encouraged. By limiting or eliminating added sugars from the diet, it’s possible to reduce oxidative stress and protect cells and tissues from damage, which can help to reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions.

This is just one of several effective methods for reducing bodily inflammation (more on this later in the article).

How Does Added Sugar Affect Your Body?

Too much added sugar can have various negative health consequences on the body, including the following:

  • Excess production of Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs): Added sugar consumption leads to an increase in AGEs, which can contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
  • Increased gut permeability: Excessive sugar intake can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut, leading to increased gut permeability and systemic inflammation.
  • Higher “bad” LDL cholesterol: Added sugar has been linked to higher levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Weight gain: Added sugar is a source of empty calories that can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for several chronic health problems, including inflammation.
  • Tooth decay: Added sugar can lead to tooth decay, which is an inflammatory process that can cause pain and discomfort.
  • Insulin Resistance: Excessive sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistance, which can contribute to chronic inflammation in the body.

Long-Term Health Problems of Too Much Sugar

Over the long term, the problems that arise from too much sugar can be significantly worse and lead to chronic diseases and conditions such as:

Heart Disease

Consuming large amounts of added sugar can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Added sugar can also raise the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood and increase insulin resistance, both of which are also associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, a high intake of added sugar can disrupt the balance of hormones and chemicals in the body, causing chronic inflammation, which has been linked to the development of heart disease.


There is some evidence to suggest that consuming too much added sugar may increase the risk of certain types of cancer. This is because added sugar raises insulin levels and contributes to obesity, both of which are known risk factors for cancer.

Additionally, some studies have found that ingesting high levels of sugar can promote inflammation in the body, which can contribute to the development of cancer.


The relationship between excessive added sugar and diabetes is complex and multifaceted. Consuming large amounts of added sugar can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin resistance, the hallmark of the disease.

Insulin resistance occurs when the body becomes less sensitive to insulin, which is the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. As a result, more insulin is required to maintain normal blood sugar levels, which can eventually lead to a decline in insulin sensitivity and the development of type 2 diabetes.

In addition, taking in large amounts of added sugar, particularly in the form of sugary drinks like soda, can lead to weight gain and obesity, which are risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.

Lastly, consuming excessive amounts of added sugar can also lead to chronic inflammation, which has been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


Added sugars are high in calories, but low in nutrients, and consuming a lot of them can contribute to obesity. When people take in more calories than they burn, the excess calories are stored as fat.

As stated previously, too much added sugar can also lead to insulin resistance, which further contributes to weight gain and obesity.


The mechanisms by which sugar might impact depression are not fully understood, but some theories suggest that high sugar intake can cause imbalances in neurotransmitter levels and disrupt the regulation of stress hormones, leading to mood disorders.

Additionally, ingesting large amounts of sugar can lead to blood sugar imbalances, which can also contribute to symptoms of depression. However, more research is needed to determine the precise relationship between sugar and depression.

Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

There is evidence to suggest that a high intake of added sugars is a contributing factor to the development of NAFLD. Added sugars are high in calories and have been linked to weight gain, which is a major risk factor for NAFLD.

Moreover, added sugars can also contribute to insulin resistance, which is a hallmark of NAFLD and other metabolic disorders.

How to Reduce Inflammation Naturally

If you want to know how to reduce inflammation naturally, here are four great ways to get started.

  • Limit Foods That Cause Inflammation: Limit intake of inflammatory foods like processed and high-sugar foods, refined carbohydrates, and fried foods.
  • Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Eat foods that reduce inflammation like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats.
  • Make Lifestyle Modifications: Get regular exercise, manage stress, get enough sleep, and quit smoking to help reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Use Dietary Supplements: Consider incorporating herbs and spices and natural supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, and ginger.

Here are three of the best natural anti-inflammatory supplements to keep inflammation down.

Turmeric contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Curcumin works by inhibiting the activity of certain enzymes and cytokines that contribute to inflammation, as well as increasing the production of antioxidants that help to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to regulate the pH balance in the body, which can reduce inflammation and help prevent chronic health problems. Studies have also shown that apple cider vinegar may help to reduce oxidative stress, which is a major contributor to inflammation.

Elderberry has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties due to its high concentration of anthocyanins and flavonoids, which are potent antioxidants. In studies, elderberry has been found to reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Sugar and Inflammation: Final Thoughts

Is sugar inflammatory? The answer, at least for added sugar, is yes. However, there is currently no information that links natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables to inflammation.

The relationship between sugar and inflammation is complex and still being researched. While the direct link between sugar and inflammation is still under investigation, it is safe to say that reducing added sugar intake can help to lower bodily inflammation levels and improve overall health.

By choosing to limit added sugars in our diets and opting for nutrient-dense whole foods, we can work towards reducing inflammation and promoting heightened well-being.