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Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

When the gut microbiome becomes imbalanced, weight gain can result from inflammation leading to insulin resistance, visceral adipose tissue deposits (belly fat), and leptin resistance. Sugar is a major food source that causes inflammation or gut dysbiosis. The average American eats about 150 lb. of sugar annually from beet, corn, and cane sweeteners. The WHO now recommends that no more than 5% of the daily calories should come from added sugars [24]. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that Americans currently consume an average of 15%—20% of their daily calories from added sugar [24].

High-sugar intake has been linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disorders [25]. A study at the University of Southern California has shown that adolescent rats that freely consumed large quantities of sugar liquids experienced memory problems and brain inflammation along with prediabetes symptoms [26]. They concluded that a diet high in added sugars not only can lead to weight gain and metabolic disturbances but can also impact neural function and cognitive ability.

Noncalorie artificial sweeteners are some of the most widely used food additives worldwide. Scientific data is sparse on their safety but one study demonstrated that their consumption drove development of glucose intolerance through an alteration in the gut microbiota [27].


Trans fatty acids play a role in the inflammatory process by stimulating the release of cytokines. They are produced industrially through partial hydrogenation of liquid plant oils and are directly related to all-cause mortality in the British MedicalJournal [28]. A Danish study identified a dietary intake of 5 g of trans fat as causing a 25% increased risk of ischemic heart disease due to inflammatory cytokines [29]. A serving of French fries and chicken nuggets from McDonald’s was evaluated from several countries showing a possible consumption of 10-25 g trans fatty acids in one day.

According to data published in the British Journal of Nutrition, trans fats 18:2 fatty acids were integrated into human aortic endothelial at twice the rate as cis 18:2 fatty acids, which caused cells to clump together and bind to the arterial walls. This response stimulates the release of proinflammatory cytokines throughout the body.

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