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This Just In: Over Consumption Of Sugar Contributes To Muscle & Joint Pain!

By Susan Brady, MPT | November 6, 2015

Americans eat a lot of sugar! According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American consumes roughly 47 pounds of cane sugar and 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year. We all know sugar is the main ingredient in the obvious villains such as candy, ice cream and other desserts, but there are also hidden sugars in most processed foods. This includes many so called “healthy” foods such as whole grain breakfast cereals, granola bars, pasta sauce, yogurt, and sports drinks.  It is widely known that overconsumption of sugar causes obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, but did you know that it could be contributing to your muscle and joint pain as well?


Research shows that the consumption of foods high in sugar can cause inflammation. Studies measuring inflammation with a blood test called C-reactive protein (CRP) discovered that foods with a high concentration of sugar increase CRP levels.  This occurs because sugary foods cause a spike in a hormone called insulin which starts a cascade of biochemical reactions that lead to the production of inflammation.  Insulin is secreted from the pancreas and is responsible for taking sugar out of the blood stream and storing it in the cells, which also contributes to the accumulation of fat.  Visceral fat, or stomach fat, itself secretes inflammatory proteins and hormones which generates chronic inflammation.  Most forms of joint pain and muscle aches involve inflammation and, even if pain is the result of trauma, symptoms may be exacerbated and prolonged by eating foods high in sugar.


Sugar also contributes to joint pain and stiffness experienced with aging through a process called glycation.  Glycation occurs when sugar bonds with proteins to form compounds called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. These compounds damage cells in the body by speeding up the oxidative process and changing normal cell behavior. AGEs are thought to be a major factor in aging as well as contributing to many age-related chronic diseases. Studies have shown that accumulation of AGEs in joint tissues causes changes in articular cartilage, making the cartilage more susceptible to damage and development of osteoarthritis.



Lastly, sugar depletes important minerals that are needed for proper muscle contraction and relaxation.  A high sugar diet results in the loss of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium in the urine.  These minerals are not only critical to the proper function of every cell, but also play a key role in skeletal muscle contraction and function. An imbalance or deficiency of any of these minerals can lead to excitability of nerve and muscle tissue and result in excessive muscle contractions or cramps.  According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, the body requires at least twenty-eight molecules of magnesium to metabolize a single molecule of sugar.  Therefore, a diet high in sugar can deplete the body of this very important mineral that is essential for maintaining proper muscle contraction.

If you suffer with joint and/or muscle aches and pain, try eliminating sugar from your diet and focus on eating the REAL food provided by nature.  You will be amazed how much better you feel and how much more energy you have, along with improved over all health and fitness!



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Susan Brady, MPT

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