Chronic inflammation damages healthy tissues in the body to cause many diseases and chronic health problems. Foods that can cause a high rise in blood sugar are one source of inflammation (“ pro-inflammatory foods “).
Pro-inflammatory foods turn on your immune system to cause cells and proteins to attack and damage your own normal cells, while “anti-inflammatory foods” dampen down this response to protect your cells from damage from an overactive immune system. Pro-inflammatory foods are associated with many diseases, and anti-inflammatory foods can help to prevent them. The more pro-inflammatory foods that you eat, the greater your chances of developing chronic inflammation and the diseases it causes (Gut, 2021 Jul;70(7):1287-1298; The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Dec 2022; 7;(12):1128-1140). The pro-inflammatory foods include sugar-added foods, sugared drinks, unfermented dairy products, red meats, processed meats, fried foods, and most packaged foods that have long lists of ingredients (Front Immunol, August 31, 2022;13).
Foods That Cause a High Rise in Blood Sugar
A high rise in blood sugar can cause sugar to stick to the outer membranes of cells and damage them, which causes inflammation. To prevent blood sugar from rising too high, your pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream which lowers blood sugar by driving sugar from the bloodstream into the liver. However, if the liver is full of fat, the liver is unable to accept the sugar and releases sugar from its cells to drive sugar levels even higher. The high rise in blood sugar converts sugar into fatty triglycerides which are stored in the liver to fill the liver with even more fat and prevent a person from responding to insulin (BMC Med, Apr 3, 2023; 21: 123).
Harm from Sugar in Drinks and Foods
Foods and drinks with added sugars can cause a high rise in blood sugar that turns on your immune system (inflammation), which is associated with:
• Cancer: high blood sugar levels can cause increased levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can cause cancer (Arterioscler Thromb, 1994 Oct;14(10):1521-8)
• Heart attacks: higher “bad” LDL cholesterol (JAMA Intern Med, 2014 Apr;174(4):516-24)
• Weight gain (Nutr Metab (London), Apr 2012;17;9(1):32)
• Heart Disease (Am J Clin Nutr, 2000 Jun;71(6):1455-61)
• Type II diabetes (Diabetes Care, 2010 Nov;33(11):2477-83)
Vegetables and Fruits That Contain Sugar Usually Do Not Cause High Rises in Blood Sugar
Fruits contain the same sugars that are found in added table sugar. However, they also contain soluble fiber that is not absorbed into your bloodstream until it reaches your colon, where healthful bacteria convert it to Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) that are absorbed into the bloodstream to lower high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high insulin, and to markedly reduce inflammation (Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2016;56(3):419-44). However, you can cause high blood sugar and insulin levels by eating too many fruits at one time. I learned that by eating 15 oranges a day, which raised my triglycerides to more than 600 (normal is less than 150) and my blood sugar level over 150. Blood sugar should not go over 145.
My Recommendations: Reduce Inflammation with Lifestyle Changes
To a large degree, your lifestyle determines how long you will live and what diseases you will endure. I believe that everyone should learn to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle as much as they can.
• Exercise: Exercising muscles help to control after-meal blood sugar rises that damage tissues to cause inflammation. An extensive review of studies showed that exercise can reduce inflammation even more than statins do (Clin Chim Acta, Jun 3, 2010;411(0):785-793).
• Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet: The food that you eat can turn on or off your immune system. See Anti-Inflammatory and Pro-Inflammatory Foods
• Lose excess weight: Excess fat, particularly in your liver, causes inflammation, and having markers of inflammation can predict future weight gain (Diabetes, 2003 Aug; 52(8): 2097-2101). Apparently healthy people who have elevated blood markers of inflammation are at high risk for developing insulin resistance and diabetes (Circulation, Jul 4, 2000;102(1):42-7) and gaining fat that, by itself, increases inflammation (J Clin Invest, 2005;115(5):1111-1119). I recommend intermittent fasting for weight loss and weight control. I do not eat at night from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM the next morning.
• Avoid Toxins: Toxic substances damage cells to cause inflammation, so you should avoid or limit as much as possible your exposure to smoke, alcohol, recreational drugs or unnecessary prescription drugs, industrial chemicals, pollutants, radiation, and so forth.
• Treat Chronic Infections: Having any chronic infection turns on your immune system to cause inflammation (J Clin Invest, May 2, 2005;115(5):1111-1119), so identifying and treating chronic infections should be part of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com