Refined Sugar and Immunity: How Inhibited White Blood Cells Impact Health

Refined sugar to Avoid It

White blood cells are part of the immune system and help the body fight off infections and foreign substances. A study has shown that too much refined sugar reduces the function of white blood cells. Eating 100 grams of refined carbohydrates such as fructose, glucose and sucrose inhibits white blood cells. The ability to phagocytise and eliminate harmful micro-organisms reaches 50% and this immunosuppressive ability lasts for more than 5 hours.

According to experts in nutritional and functional medicine, the normal white blood cell count is generally around 4,500-10,000 per ul. If it is above this range, it may represent a bacterial infection, burns, tissue damage or even leukaemia, commonly known as blood cancer; if it is below this range, it may represent a viral or protozoan infection, aplastic anaemia, splenomegaly, side effects of chemotherapy or certain drug treatments.

An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 stated that ingesting 100 grams of refined carbohydrates, such as fructose, glucose, sucrose and orange juice, will begin to inhibit the phagocytosis of white blood cells and eliminate harmful microorganisms within 30 minutes, the ability to reach 50%; and this immunosuppressive effect will last for more than 5 hours. Therefore, in order to protect the immune system, the public must limit the intake of refined sugar.

What Is Refined Sugar?

Refined sugar, also known as white sugar or table sugar, is a highly processed and purified form of sugar that is commonly used as a sweetener in foods and drinks. It is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets and undergoes several processing steps to remove impurities and produce the crystalline white substance that is familiar to most people.

The process of refining sugar involves crushing the sugar cane or sugar beets to extract the juice, which is then heated and treated with chemicals such as lime and carbon dioxide to remove any impurities. The resulting liquid is then evaporated and boiled until sugar crystals form, which are then separated from the liquid and dried to produce the final product.

Refined sugar is composed of sucrose, a type of carbohydrate that is easily digested and provides energy to the body. However, it is considered a “empty calorie” as it contains no essential nutrients such as vitamins or minerals. It is often criticized for its high caloric content and potential negative effects on health when consumed in excess, including weight gain, tooth decay, and an increased risk of certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Here is a table summarizing the advantages and disadvantages of refined and natural sugars:

AdvantagesRefined SugarNatural Sugar
SweetnessHighLower due to other natural components
PurityVery highMay contain impurities, but not necessarily harmful
SolubilityDissolves easily in liquidsMay not dissolve as easily
AvailabilityWidely availableMay be less readily available
TextureFine, uniform crystalsMay have varying textures
Shelf LifeLong shelf lifeShorter shelf life
ProductionCan be mass-produced at low costMay require more resources to produce
DisadvantagesRefined SugarNatural Sugar
Nutritional ValueEmpty calories, no essential nutrientsMay contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals
Health EffectsMay contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other health issuesMay have less of an impact on health, but excessive consumption can still be problematic
ProcessingHighly processed with chemicalsMinimal processing or no processing
Environmental ImpactProduction can have negative environmental impactsProduction may have less of an impact on the environment
CostLow costMay be more expensive due to production methods and availability

Some natural sugars are better than others

While natural sugars are generally considered healthier than refined sugars, it is important to note that not all natural sugars are created equal in terms of their impact on health.

For example, fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars such as fructose and glucose that are accompanied by a variety of other beneficial nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. These sugars are absorbed slowly into the bloodstream and can provide sustained energy without causing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.

On the other hand, highly processed natural sweeteners such as agave nectar or honey may contain high levels of fructose and have a similar impact on the body as refined sugar. They may also lack the beneficial nutrients found in whole fruits and vegetables.

Furthermore, some natural sugars can have a negative impact on dental health. For example, natural sugars found in dried fruits, fruit juice, and even some vegetables can cling to teeth and promote the growth of harmful bacteria, leading to tooth decay and cavities.

Overall, it is important to choose natural sweeteners that are accompanied by other beneficial nutrients and consume them in moderation to support overall health and wellbeing.

How to avoid refined sugar

Avoiding refined sugar can be a challenge since it is present in many processed and packaged foods. However, there are several strategies that can help reduce your intake of refined sugar:

  1. Read food labels: Look for hidden sources of sugar, such as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and maltodextrin. Avoid foods that list sugar or a sugar derivative as one of the first ingredients.
  2. Choose whole foods: Opt for whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods contain natural sugars that are accompanied by fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  3. Use natural sweeteners: Use natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or stevia in moderation to add sweetness to your food and drinks.
  4. Cook from scratch: Prepare your meals at home using fresh ingredients, and avoid processed and packaged foods that often contain added sugars.
  5. Be mindful of beverages: Many beverages, including soda, sports drinks, and juice, are high in sugar. Choose water or unsweetened beverages instead.
  6. Gradually reduce your intake: Gradually reduce your intake of refined sugar over time to allow your taste buds to adjust to less sweet flavors. This can help you develop a preference for less sweet foods and drinks.

By implementing these strategies, you can reduce your intake of refined sugar and support your overall health and wellbeing.