Sugar and Chronic Inflammation

The following is a post from Dr. Amy Shah. We are very excited to introduce you to Dr. Shah and so very lucky to have the opportunity to have her as a new contributor to the 22 Days blog. Read more about Dr. Shah below.

Let’s talk about SUGAR and Inflammation.

You may have heard that there is a link between sugar and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's  and cancer.

Maybe you picked sugar to be the food you avoid for the next 22 days.

As a physician, I believe avoiding sugar today is more important than ever.

More and more cutting edge studies are substantiating the fact that sugar leads to inflammation-- which then leads to so many chronic diseases.

My gift to all of you would be to cut down your sugar so that you can look better, perform better and live longer.  This is all because of sugars link to inflammation.

So how exactly does eating sugar cause chronic inflammation?

First let me simply explain “chronic inflammation”.

Chronic Inflammation is a process in your body that happens when we are constantly trying to heal after many insults to the body.

For example, acute inflammation is like the normal healing process after a cut. This is normal and a good thing.

However, Chronic inflammation is the healing process after many cuts, every day, and in excess. Examples of these many “cuts” that our body has to heal from are: poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, toxins in our food and self care products etc.

What’s more that chronic inflammation leads to diabetes, cancer, heart disease. It also leads to symptoms of aging like wrinkles, aches and pains, weight gain.

So you eat a candy bar full of sugar, this increases insulin (making the body insulin resistant), and drives up the inflammatory signalling in the body. And if you are eating a candy bar, and some soda, and other sources of sugar this process becomes even more severe.    

  Of course your genes, your age and your other lifestyle factors play a big role in how quickly or how intensely sugar creates inflammation and causes these diseases.

This amazing link between diet and chronic inflammation is what got me interested in the immune system in the first place as a medical student.

Dr. Lustig et al found that in just 9 days decreasing sugar in adolescents -- so many blood markers of inflammation improved! This was all without decreasing their calorie intake.

Specifically, in this albeit small study2, their fasting blood sugar levels dropped by 53%, along with the amount of insulin their bodies produced. What’s more their cholesterol, specifically triglyceride and LDL levels also dropped. Lastly, they showed less fat in their liver.

My specific recommendation to you?

Take all processed sugar out!! Sounds so easy right?! But not easy in real life since so many sauces dressing drinks etc have sugar!

And just because it’s natural from maple syrup, dates, agave DOES not mean it won’t affect your blood sugar, insulin and subsequent inflammation.

NO MATTER what the source of sugar -- when we get to much anything over about 10g at a time- it causes inflammation, fat storage, insulin resistance.

Of course it’s difficult for most to stop all sugar- natural and added.

SO I say first no white sugar and no high fructose corn syrup.

Then with the “healthy” sugars- wean down to total 25 g a day.

What that might look like:

  • Dates: 3 chopped in your nut mix (about 15 grams of sugar)
  • Agave/maple: 2 tablespoons in your batch of homemade dessert
  • Jaggery: 15 grams in your indian cooking
  • Raw brown sugar: 2 tablespoons a day (about 25 grams of sugar)

Remember don’t do all of these in one day- do just one.

Basically 2 tablespoon of the brown sugar is equivalent to 25 grams-- your total allotment.

Remember to count the sugar in your sauce, dressings, etc towards the total daily allowance.

Once you have mastered this I would wean down to 12 grams a day.

Eventually you will be having no added sugar except for fruit and believe me that fruit will taste better than ever, and your body will thank you today and when you live to be 100.


Who is Amy Shah MD?

Amy Shah, M.D. is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was named one of Mindbodygreen's Top 100 Women In Wellness to Watch in 2015 and has been a guest on many national and local media including Dr. Oz, Bulletproof radio, and the Greatist.

She helps busy people transform their health by reducing inflammation and eating more plants. As an immunologist she realizes the power of the microbiome to help digestion, natural hormone balance and food sensitivities. See more at