SWANSEA, United Kingdom — While it may be common knowledge that too much sugar can cause obesity and diabetes, what sugary diets do to the immune system is more of a mystery. Now, researchers in the United Kingdom say diets high in fructose may keep the immune system from working properly. That damage can lead to organ dysfunction, inflammation, and disease.
Fructose is a common ingredient in sugary beverages, sweets, and a wide variety of processed foods manufacturers produce. Previous studies have discovered all that added sugar has a connection to eaters developing type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and other metabolic conditions. While they may be harmful, researchers also find people around the world are consuming more and more of these products every year.
A team from Swansea University, the University of Bristol, and the Francis Crick Institute set out to see how too much fructose impacts the rest of the body, not just a person’s waistline.
Creating harmful molecules and inflammation
The results find fructose consumption inflames the human immune system. When that happens, the body produces more reactive molecules that cause inflammation which can damage cells and tissues.
All of this damage can cause the organs and other systems to stop working correctly; opening up the body to disease. Study authors add that this may explain how high fructose consumption causes obesity, as past reports find excess weight has ties to low levels of inflammation as well.
“Research into different components of our diet can help us understand what might contribute to inflammation and disease and what could be best harnessed to improve health and wellbeing,” says Dr. Nick Jones of Swansea’s Medical School in a university release.
“Our study is exciting because it takes us a step further towards understanding why some diets can lead to ill health,” adds Dr. Emma Vincent from Bristol Medical School.
The team says their findings add to the growing pile of evidence that sugary products are doing more harm than good in the human diet. They add that public health policy makers need to factor all of this in when making recommendations about daily diets.
The study appears in the journal Nature Communications.