How does sugar weaken the immune system? Experts explain
03/12/2020 // Divina Ramirez // Views

Excessive consumption of sugars is closely associated with several metabolic disorders and health conditions, according to a recent study published in Circulation. Researchers from the American Heart Association (AHA) examined the amount of dietary sugars in the standard American diet (SAD) and found that the intake of added sugars greatly exceeded discretionary calorie allowances.

The study also revealed that soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages were the primary sources of added sugars. Due to the harmful effects of excess sugar on health, the researchers recommended a significant reduction in sugar intake, and restricted American men and women to no more than 150 and 100 calories per day from added sugars, respectively.

Effects of excess sugar on the immune system

Consuming plenty of refined sugars can affect different organs and systems of the body. However, a recent article published on NaturalHealth365 showed that excess sugar greatly weakens the immune system. The following are some of the effects of sugar on the body's immune system:

Increased risk of Type 2 diabetes

Vitamin C is essential for the growth, maintenance and repair of the body's tissues. It also plays an important role in boosting the immune system and promoting healthy digestion. But the human body cannot produce vitamin C, and can only absorb it from food sources like oranges, lemons, thyme, parsley, spinach and kale. However, excess blood glucose can inhibit the body from properly absorbing vitamin C, which can lead to a deficiency. (Related: Too much sugar can lead to nutritional deficiencies – excess glucose reduces your body’s absorption of key minerals.)


Due to the important role of vitamin C in various bodily functions, vitamin C deficiency can easily compromise the body's natural defenses. For instance, vitamin C deficiency can weaken capillaries and bone structures, which may lead to hemorrhage and bone-related diseases, respectively. Vitamin C deficiency can also impair bone tissue formation, causing brittle bones prone to fractures. In severe cases of deficiency, an individual may also experience symptoms of scurvy, such as spontaneous hemorrhages, swollen gums, loose teeth, secondary infections and persistent wounds.

Given these consequences, vitamin C deficiency can be especially harmful for diabetic individuals who are already suffering from complications including slow-healing sores, damaged blood vessels, nerve damage, kidney damage and ulcers. Additionally, a recent study published in Nutrients found that vitamin C deficiency due to excess blood glucose is linked to a greater risk of obesity, pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

Oxidative stress

Oxidation is an essential bodily process that rids the body of toxins, pathogens and other potentially harmful elements. This process produces free radicals, which are unstable but relatively harmless molecules. Antioxidants play an important role in regulating the amount of free radicals in the body, since they can easily damage healthy and important cells if left unchecked. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body. When there is oxidative stress, free radicals quickly begin to damage the body's proteins, lipids and DNA. Eventually, free radicals may cause serious health problems, such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Many variables can cause oxidative stress, including excess blood glucose. Free radicals are the by-products of oxidation, which occurs when the body processes sugar. A small amount of free radicals is normal, since the body's natural antioxidants are naturally equipped to handle them. However, high blood sugar levels can cause an influx of free radicals, which can easily overwhelm the immune system. Additionally, excess sugar can adversely affect how white blood cells perform, and increase inflammatory markers. In fact, a recent study published in Nutrition Journal revealed that obese individuals had fewer white blood cells to fight infections.

A strong immune system can help protect the body from various diseases and health complications. Support your immune system by following a healthy, nutritious diet with little to no refined sugars.

Sources include:

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