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Sugar and Aging

Sugar's effect on the aging process

There has been quite a bit of new data coming in with regard to the way sugar actually contributes to the aging process.  The thought was that sugar that is taken into the body actually creates a scenario where human cells throughout the body age faster when raw sugar is consumed. 

The results of several related studies presented at the June, 2002 meeting of the American Diabetes Association confirm the findings that high-glycemic carbohydrates--sugars and starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes, and bread--cause an inflammatory response that accelerates aging and contributes to a variety of diseases (heart disease, some types of cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, etc.). 

In addition, one of the studies showed that the antioxidant vitamins E and C block this inflammatory response. The results of the new studies support the conclusions of a prior study showing that dietary sugars increase blood levels of free radicals and pro-inflammatory enzymes to a greater degree than foods that are high in fat or protein.

Junk Food Causes Inflammation  

In one of the new studies, subjects ate a 900-calorie fast-food breakfast consisting of an egg-and-ham sandwich (high in saturated fats) and hash browns (high in sugars, starches, trans-fatty acids and saturated fats). 

Blood samples were taken before eating and at one, two and three hours after eating, to detect any increase in free radicals or blood mediators of inflammation. The fast-food meal caused an increase in inflammatory markers that lasted three to four hours, while the level of an anti-inflammatory blood factor was reduced. 

Another of the new studies showed that the sugary, fatty meals reduced the ability of vessels to expand and contract in response to changes in blood flow.

Antioxidants to the Rescue

In a companion study, participants took 1,200 IU of vitamin E and 500 mg of vitamin C before consuming sugar (glucose). Their blood levels of oxygen free radicals and pro-inflammatory markers increased when sugar was consumed alone, but did not increase when accompanied by these two antioxidant vitamins. (This does not mean that you can safely eat junk food just because you take these vitamins!)

Together, these results provide more strong evidence that dietary starches, sugars, and saturated fats promote inflammation and premature aging.


Dandona P, et al. Presentation, June 16 2002. American Diabetes Association 62nd Scientific Sessions; June 14-18, 2002, San Francisco USA.]

Mohanty P, Hamouda W, Garg R, Aljada A, Ghanim H, Dandona P. Glucose challenge stimulates reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation by leucocytes. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Aug;85(8):2970-3.

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