There are several pieces of research today which prove that our immune system can fail us following the consumption of high sugar foods. Consuming 100 grams of simple sugars (glucose, sucrose, or fructose) including honey or orange juice can reduce the ability of your immune system to destroy pathogens. The effects start within 30 minutes and last for about 5 hours with roughly a 50% reduction of white blood cell action. (Sanchez, Reeser, Lau, & al., 1973). Another study confirms this by looking at what happens to immune defenses after ingesting Coca-Cola (Ringsdorf, Cheraskin, & Ramsay, 1976).
While 100 grams of sugar sounds like a lot, it is important to realize that your average bottle of Naked Juice contains about 60 grams of sugar (do not forget to look at serving sizes!). Grab a scone with that and you are looking at another 24 grams of sugar (Nutritiondata.com). Or have a venti Starbucks Tazo green tea Frappuccino without the whipped cream and you are looking at 95 grams of sugar from your drink alone. (Starbucks Coffee Company, 2009)
Although the mechanism is unknown, we can speculate that sugar’s negative effect on the immune system has to do with the fact that Vitamin C appears to compete with glucose in cellular absorption (Mann, 1975). In other words, if we can consume foods which will NOT flood the system with glucose, Vitamin C will still be able to get into our cells and do its job. (Murray, 1998)
These foods include those which do not contain either sugar or refined carbohydrates (which turn into glucose rapidly in the bloodstream). Think foods high in protein, fiber, and good fats. So instead of having a flavored drink from the local coffee shop with a muffin for breakfast, consider having 2 free range eggs, with a slice of organic whole grain toast and some fresh tomatoes from your garden harvest along with a cup of unsweetened herbal tea.
Consider your 3 year old preschooler having an organic apple juice box. With 26 grams of sugar, you ought to question what effect that might or might not have on that little body’s resistance to germs. Offer some animal crackers or organic fruit leather, and you might be heading for trouble. Please remember that young children seem to most often catch infections in daycare settings and examine the provided meals with this perspective.
While there are a lot of effective strategies that will help boost your immune system, first and foremost we must ensure that we provide our bodies with nutrition that will help the immune system work as it was intended.