Can Sugar Cause Joint Pain? 4 Real Evidence That It’s Dangerous

Can Sugar Cause Joint Pain? 4 Real Evidence That It's Dangerous

Sugar is definitely a huge problem of this century, because it’s behind lots of health issues. Diabetes, obesity or cancer are just a few examples. But what about arthritis? Lots of people think sugar is responsible for this condition as well.

But can sugar cause joint pain itself? It may worsen an existing arthritis, but can it produce it all alone? 

I haven’t found too many studies on this topic, but unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that sugar can also cause joint problems, besides the other health issues. So I will try to give you 4 real reasons why it’s responsible for some cases of joint pain.


1. Sets Off Inflammation

Sugar may be the direct responsible for diabetes, but it’s also one of the best friends of inflammation. That’s because high quantities of sugar increase the swelling throughout our whole body.

Can Sugar Cause Joint Pain? 4 Real Evidence That It's Dangerous

And it’s not me saying this, it’s science. 

Researchers discovered that people who eat a lot of sugar daily have very high levels of C-reactive protein. This substance is the direct responsible for swelling, so it’s a great way to measure inflammation. 

But why does sugar increase the levels of this protein?

Well, that’s because sugar stimulates insulin, the hormone that is directly connected to diabetes. But it’s not about diabetes here, it’s about inflammation. So once the production of insulin increases, it’s followed by several metabolic reactions that will lead to inflammation. Joint pain is usually caused by inflammation itself, so that’s how it appears.

Obviously, this won’t happen overnight. But as you grow older, you may begin to notice that your joints hurt more than before. 

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it, other than giving up sugary foods. Obviously, you can’t just stop eating any sugar, but you can give up candy, soda and fast-foods, which are the main problem. Fruits contain natural sugar, which isn’t any harmful.


2. Increases The Risk For RA

Can Sugar Cause Joint Pain? 4 Real Evidence That It's DangerousEveryone knows that sugar increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease, that’s not something new. But did you know that it can also increase the risk for rheumatoid arthritis

That’s because sugar leads to chronic inflammation in the joints. And what’s the cause that lies behind RA? That’s right, chronic inflammation. So this is a real risk of sugary foods, that’s for sure.

If you have RA in your family history, the risk is even higher. Normally, you may have the condition in your genes, but it’s possible that you never develop it. However, there’s a risk. But if you add up to that risk with a really bad diet, things might change and you could get RA at one point.

However, you may never know if sugar had anything to do with it. Maybe you would have gotten RA either way, but maybe you increased the risk by eating lots of sugar. You may never know, but you you’re not losing anything if you do your best to prevent it. 

Obviously, the worst case scenario is if you already have RA. If you’re in that category, you might have noticed that sugar is no good for your joints. In case you didn’t, try to give up sugary food for one week. You can eat natural foods or cook some yourself. If you really need something sweet, you can use honey instead of sugar.

Unlike a gluten-free diet, giving up sugars will surely bring some results. Your pain won’t go away, but your flareups might decrease considerably.


3. Stimulates Stress Hormone

Desserts spelled backwards is stress, but there’s no coincidence. High levels of sugar stimulate the production of cortisol, which is also called “the stress hormone”.

So what does stress and cortisol have to do with joint pain? Well, cortisol normally acts as an anti-inflammatory, so it should prevent any type of joint pain. But when the levels of cortisol are constantly high, your body gets into a state of inflammation that can be really harmful.

Besides, in this situation your body can’t absorb calcium properly, so bones will gradually get damaged. Obviously, nothing happens overnight, but you don’t need as much as 10 years either. 

So that’s another reason why sugar can be a real danger for your joints. It increases cortisol and once cortisol levels get really high, inflammation starts to come up. 

But there’s also some good news. You need really high quantities of sugar to have such high levels of cortisol. Drinking 3 sweetened cups of coffees and eating 2 pieces of cake won’t be enough.

Besides, you could tell something is wrong pretty shortly, as cortisol can lead to other problems that are hard to ignore. So until it gets to your joints, there’s a long while. But even so, sugar remains potentially dangerous in my opinion.


4. Harmful On The Long Term

Can Sugar Cause Joint Pain? 4 Real Evidence That It's DangerousHigh quantities of sugar are the worst thing you can eat if you have arthritis. And there’s a good reason why – glycation. 

This is actually a process where sugar molecules will attach to the proteins from your body. Among those protein, there are also the ones from joints and cartilages. But why is this wrong? It’s a natural process after all, so it shouldn’t be any harmful.

In normal conditions, it’s not. But when you eat huge quantities of sugar every day, for a long time, there will be lots of proteins bonding to sugars. That’s not a bad thing itself either, but you should know that some of these bonds will turn into brittle structures inside the joints. It’s pretty obvious that they won’t do too much good there.

So on the long term, they can cause stiffness and chronic inflammation. That’s besides the fact that sugar increases C-reactive protein, which also leads to inflammation. So there are already 2 different ways in which sugar stimulates swelling, not to mention the other 2.



My Final Verdict – Can Sugar Cause Joint Pain Itself?

Short Answer: Yes it can. If you eat lots of sugary foods daily, you have high chances to suffer from joint pain at one point. The only good news is that you need to do this for a long time, which is pretty unlikely.

So sugar can cause joint pain all alone. Fortunately, it won’t do it to everyone and it won’t do it very fast. You would need to consume high quantities daily, which means that you would have to eat lots of candy, cakes, fast-food and drink mostly soda. And you would have to do this for several years.

That’s the only possible good news I can give you. 

However, if you already have arthritis or if someone from your family does, things could go much faster. In this case, I really advise you to give up sugar as much as you can. It can be a really dangerous substance, especially as you grow older.

So overall, sugar can produce joint pain, but if it really does depends completely of you. 

Heather Pharm.D.

Heather Tracy Foley is a Pharmacy graduate, Blogger and Author with a vast experience in health sciences. She has a particular interest in joint pain and rheumatology and spent several years studying health problems. You can find her on Pinterest or via email.

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2 Responses

  1. Pamela says:

    Wrong!!!!! I ate very little sugar. Period! However, when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I noticed that it was always worse around Thanksgiving, holidays when I was inundated with cookies and sweets. I soon went gluten free thinking that was it. Helped but, not nearly enough. 2 years later while on strict elimination diet I discover that the smallest amount of sugar caused immense pain. So much so I was calling dr for pain help. 2 days later all over pain went from 10 to 3 when sugar left system. Sugar is a killer for some.

  2. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Hi Pamela, thanks a lot for your feedback on this matter, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been going through all this pain. I looked into lots of research paper and there isn’t any clear link between joint pain and sugar (at least not a confirmed one).

    However, it’s true that sugar does cause joint pain in some people. Just take the example of acne, certain people claim their acne worsens when they eat foods that are rich in sugar, while others are completely fine even if they have much higher quantities. So it’s all a matter of individual (and luck, unfortunately).

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