Eating Sugar Suppresses the Immune System

by Pankaj Kotak, M.Sc., N.D.

As more and more countries become industrialized, their consumption of sugars is increasing rapidly. Over the past few decades, with the increase of sugar consumption, there has been an increase in various chronic diseases such as Diabetes, Heart Disease, Arthritis, Cancer, Auto Immune diseases among others. Consumption of sugar causes a sharp increase in blood glucose levels which in turn raises the insulin level. High levels of blood insulin inhibit the release of growth hormones which suppresses the immune system.

Scientists have found that sugars reduce the phagocytic capacity of white blood cells. Phagocytic capacity is the ability of WBC to kill viruses, bacteria and remove foreign matter from the blood. In 1973, a scientific study done by Albert Sanchez (1) and colleagues at the Loma Linda University in California found that oral ingestion of 100 gm of sugar from glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice significantly reduced the capacity of neutrophils to engulf bacteria. They found that the greatest suppression happened between 1 to 2 hours after consumption and was significant even after 5 hours after feeding. Sanchez's study found that ingestion of starch, also known as complex carbohydrates, did not have any suppressing effect on the immune system. Starches are found in vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. These foods are also storehouses of many essential vitamins and minerals, some of which are powerful antioxidants. This is why eating vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is so important for good health.

In 1976, Sanchez's findings were confirmed by Ringsdorf, et al. (2) when they gave their subjects 24 ounces of sugar (sucrose) sweetened cola. In this study the phagocytic index of all their subjects was reduced by 50%. In other words, the disease-fighting capacity of the WBC was reduced by half. Above research gives an idea of why people usually feel terrible after eating a high sugar diet. It also helps in explaining the rising rates of chronic illnesses in those countries with a high consumption of sugar, especially the industrialized nations. Sanchez's study clearly indicates that complex carbohydrates are far better for overall health for normal people as well as those who are suffering from chronic health problems.


  1. Sanchez, A., et al. Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Nov 1973;261:1180_1184.
  2. Ringsdorf, W., et al. Sucrose, Neutrophilic Phagocytosis and Resistance to Disease. Dental Survey. 1976;52(12):46_48.

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