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Sugar and PsA Inflammation: What’s The Link?

Last updated: June 2022

What we eat has a major impact on our health. Many studies suggest that the way we eat can increase or decrease our risk for diet-related chronic diseases. Sugar is often accused of increasing inflammation in our bodies.1,2

Understanding inflammation and the connection between psoriatic arthritis (PsA), metabolic syndrome, and diet can help you learn more about the effect of food on overall health.1,2

What is inflammation?

When you think of inflammation, you might think of the red, swollen tissue typical of a wound. While this is 1 type of inflammation, it is not the only type.3

Inflammation is a natural response that the body uses to protect itself from injury or infection. It occurs when cells release chemicals that cause blood vessels to widen and the movement of white blood cells to increase. This allows more immune cells to reach the site of injury or infection.3

While inflammation is a natural response that helps protect the body, it can also cause problems if it becomes chronic. When inflammation occurs over a long period of time, it can damage tissues and organs. This can lead to many health problems, such as heart disease, asthma, and arthritis. Chronic inflammation occurs in PsA.2,3

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a condition linked to several health problems, including obesity, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol.

People with the metabolic syndrome tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies. This may be because people with metabolic syndrome are more likely to be carrying extra weight or have obesity.4,5

Metabolic syndrome and PsA

Research shows that people with PsA have higher metabolic syndrome rates than those without PsA. This could explain why people with PsA have a much higher risk for heart and vessel disease than the general population.6

Inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and food

Studies have shown that metabolic syndrome leads to chronic inflammation. Metabolic syndrome is also linked to unhealthy lifestyle choices like 4-6

  • Smoking
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating an unhealthy diet of excess fats and sugars

Research has proven that what you eat can impact the level of inflammation in your blood. Certain nutrients from food either reduce inflammation or make it worse.1

Natural versus refined sugars

Processed sugars are found in foods like candy, cake, and soda. These sugars have been processed and refined and are high in calories and unhealthy fats. Natural sugars are found in foods like fruit and milk. These sugars are lower in calories and unhealthy fats than processed sugars.4,7

Processed sugars are harmful to your health because they can increase the risk for obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.4,7

Is sugar inflammatory?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. While some research has shown a link between added sugars and inflammation, other studies have mixed results. Doctors know that refined or processed sugars release inflammatory chemicals in the blood.1,2,8

Some people find that reducing their sugar intake helps reduce inflammation, while others do not see a difference. It is important to remember that everyone is different, and what works for 1 person may not work for another.1

Tips to cut the sugar

If you want to reduce your sugar intake, you can do a few things. First, try to avoid processed foods, which are often high in added sugar. Instead, focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods. Also, be mindful of the amount of sugar you are adding to your coffee, tea, and desserts.8

While reducing your sugar intake will not cure PsA, it could be a step in the right direction. Added sugars and a poor diet are linked to weight gain, which can worsen PsA. By taking steps to reduce inflammation and manage your weight, you may be able to improve your symptoms and reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome.1,2,6

Do not stop or start a new diet on your own. Always talk to your doctor or registered dietitian before making any changes to your diet.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Psoriatic-Arthritis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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