At present, there is insufficient evidence to say that rheumatoid arthritis can be caused by sugar.
However, a 2017 survey of people with rheumatoid arthritis found worsening of symptoms with sugary foods, specifically desserts and soda. This could be because sugar causes a pro-inflammatory state in the body due to resultant hyperinsulinemia.
4 theories that link sugar intake with rheumatoid arthritis
- Change in the bacterial flora of gum and mouth
- Some experts think that the easy availability of sugar to the public caused the spurt in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They think that sugar changes the bacterial flora of the gum and mouth. This, in turn, made some people more likely to fall prey to the condition (bacterial dysbiosis).
- Increased ACPA levels
- The blood levels of anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA), a type of protein, are found to be elevated in many people with rheumatoid arthritis. ACPA triggers the inflammation and causes the development or increase in the intensity of RA symptoms. Some experts believe sugar causes ACPA to increase in blood, which worsens the RA symptoms.
- Impact on the gut microbiome
- Weight gain
4 ways to cut down sugar from the diet
If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may want to lower your sugar intake. However, remember not to eliminate sugar from your diet at once. This may increase your sugar cravings.
Instead, try the following strategies to minimize your sugar intake:
- Keep sugary foods out of your reach: Do not stock sugary stuff, such as pastries, candy, and cookies, in your cupboards and fridge. Instead, stock your fridge with fruits. Fruits can help satisfy your sweet cravings and provide you with antioxidants, which can help reduce joint inflammation.
- Opt for bland foods and skip the sugary drinks: Opt for unsweetened foods or beverages, such as iced tea, plain yogurt, and unflavored oatmeal. Then, add sweetener according to your taste. This way, you can control your sugar intake. Skip the sugary drinks, such as sweetened sodas, and go for fruit juices with no added sugars.
- Read the labels carefully: Sometimes, fat-free or low-fat products are loaded with sugars. So, read labels while grocery shopping.
- Have breakfast and healthy snacks: Having a healthy and fulfilling breakfast in the morning can curb your sugar cravings throughout the day. Options include wholewheat bread with a fruit spread instead of a jam spread, oatmeal, low-fat yogurt or milk, eggs, a serving of nuts and seeds, and fresh fruits.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Levine H. The Link Between Sugar and Rheumatoid Arthritis. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/features/sugar-ra-link
Tedeschi SK, Frits M, Cui J, et al. Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms: Survey Results from a Rheumatoid Arthritis Registry. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2017;69(12):1920-1925. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28217907
Hu Y, Costenbader KH, Gao X, Al-Daabil M, et al. Sugar-sweetened soda consumption and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Sep;100(3):959-67. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25030783
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