A Link Between Sugar and Inflammation

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Scientists have discovered that chronic inflammation may be the root of many common illnesses. With this discovery, doctors will be able to treat a wide variety of diseases, from Crohn’s disease to congestive heart failure. There are things you can do, however, to reduce the chances you will develop chronic inflammation, or to reduce its effects. Diet is the number one way to reduce inflammation. By eating foods low on the glycemic index, you can prevent the “sugar rush” obtained by eating high glycemic foods. It has been reported that these insulin boosts can contribute to chronic inflammation.

So, what is the glycemic index? It ranks foods based on their effect on your body’s blood sugar levels. The higher the ranking, the more the food causes an insulin surge in your body. This is why, depending on what you eat, you can feel very tired afterward. The faster the food is digested in your body, the higher the ranking on the glycemic index and the more likely it is to cause inflammation.

Also, the way a food is cooked could raise its glycemic index. When a food is in water, the starch within it gets bloated, and so does the surface area of the food. This causes more enzyme activity within that food and thereby increases its glycemic index. Foods that are high in “amylopectin” starch are broken down very quickly — such as with a baked potato.

Foods high in “amylose” starch, however, take much longer to digest and are therefore lower on the glycemic index — such as kidney beans and lentils. Foods that have a protective coating (legumes and whole grains are good examples) and foods high in soluble fibers take longer to digest as well. Try to avoid foods that are cooked at extremely high temperatures as well, such as French fries and other fried foods, as they can contribute to chronic inflammation.

Researchers at the University of Sydney, Australia, recently examined whether dietary glycemic index, dietary fiber, and carbohydrate-containing food groups were associated with inflammatory disease in older Australian men and women. The study included 1,490 postmenopausal women and 1,245 men aged 49 or older. They found that, over a 13-year period, 84 women and 86 men died of inflammatory diseases.

Women in the highest glycemic index portion had almost three times the risk of inflammatory death, compared with women in the lowest glycemic portion. Interestingly, in men, only an increased consumption of fruit caused a decrease in risk of inflammatory death. The researchers concluded that there is a potentially important link between the glycemic index and inflammatory disease mortality among older women.