Sugar is not bad or good, no food is. Sugar as a compound does not promote inflammation. Sucrose itself is innocuous and the human immune system will not react to it. Thus, if you are on the side of the woo or func med you need to understand and appreciate this.

HOWEVER, processed food high in sugar can result in inflammation by at least three mechanisms.

1. Increasing adiposity. Adipose tissue is by its very nature inflammatory. The more you have the more inflammation you will have on-board. That said, processed food is far from the sole cause of increased adiposity, however it is a determinant along with many other factors that also influence numero dos (sleep, circadian rhythms, exercise, movement, stress, etc).

2. If you eat a diet high in processed foods you are certainly going to induce negative changes in your microbiome which will likely result in an increased inflammatory response inside the GI tract. Somewhere around 80% of your immune system lives in and around your alimentary canal so this is not something to be taken lightly and we are just starting to understand the widespread effects that our dietary and lifestyle choices as a species have had on this ecosystem over the last century.

3. Hyperglycemia will result in increased levels of IL-6, TNF-α and will also activate the NFκB pathway. That said, a diet high in sugar or carbohydrates does not necessarily mean that one will be hyperglycemic. I have plenty of CGM data on human gorillas eating upwards of 500 grams of carbohydrates on training days and not even coming close to 140 mg/dL. Insulin, on the other hand has been found to be anti-inflammatory blocking the NFκB pathway (through the suppression of TLR expression) and reducing TNF-α, this further makes sense because insulin resistance is invariably linked with increased inflammation.

Don’t blow the doors off blood glucose and…

“Eat Real Food. Not Too much. Mostly PLANTS.”
-Michael Pollan