Excess consumption of sugar and other carbohydrates can lead to increased inflammation and greater risk of autoimmune diseases. A recent article published in Cell Metabolism has revealed new details of how sugar consumption promotes inflammation and disease.
Autoimmune diseases are a group of conditions caused by the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells. Examples of autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, lupus, certain thyroid diseases, and many more. Excess consumption of sugar over long periods of time can lead to increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases. The underlying mechanisms causing autoimmune disorders are complex, but new details have emerged about part of this process.
Cells in the immune system require sugar to perform their functions, and specialized glucose transporters help immune cells take up glucose at the cell membrane. One specialized transporter, called GLUT3, is highly expressed in a type of immune cell called Th17 lymphocytes. Th17 lymphocytes help regulate inflammatory processes, including autoinflammation. After glucose is taken up by Th17 cells, it is metabolized into an enzyme called acetyl-coenzyme A. The new research published in Cell Metabolism has shown that this enzyme can regulate the activity of certain gene segments regulating inflammation. Therefore, levels of glucose consumption have a direct impact on inflammatory genes.
Excess sugar consumption, in addition to increasing risk of autoimmune diseases, can cause increased blood pressure, weight gain, elevated inflammation, and metabolic disorders. Over time, excess sugar consumption and its effects can lead to heart disease and stroke. For optimal heart health and overall wellbeing, the AHA recommends very limited sugar intake per day: no more than about 6 teaspoons a day for women and about 9 teaspoons a day for men.
Sources: Cell Metabolism, Science Daily, AHA