The connection between sugar and arthritis is complex. Sugar has not been shown to cause arthritis, but consuming too much sugar might worsen the condition for an individual who already has it. In addition, sugar might worsen the symptoms of arthritis.
Arthritis is a condition that affects an individual's joints. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which occurs when the joints' cartilage deteriorates, causing the bones to rub against each other. Another type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when the lining of the joints becomes inflamed, causing damage to the joint. A third type of arthritis is gout, which is caused by the building up of uric acid crystals around the joints. All three types of arthritis result in joint pain and stiffness.
Sugar and arthritis are not directly connected. Consuming too much sugar doesn't cause the symptoms of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but individuals who are suffering from arthritis might experience an increase in pain because of weight gain. Obesity puts more stress on the weight-bearing joints, such as the knees, ankles, feet and hips. This extra stress causes more discomfort and stiffness in the joints, which in turn leads to a more sedentary lifestyle and additional weight gain. Consuming large amounts of sugary foods can contribute to weight gain, so sugar intake might indirectly affect the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
There is a special consideration concerning sugar consumption for individuals who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Aside from causing weight gain, consuming excess sugar also increases a person's blood glucose level. Rheumatoid arthritis is frequently treated with corticosteroids, which tend to raise blood glucose levels as well. As a result, individuals who have rheumatoid arthritis should avoid consuming large amounts of sugar to prevent complications from elevated blood glucose levels.
The relationship between sugar and arthritis also extends to gout. High sugar intake raises the level of uric acid in the blood, especially if an individual consumes large amounts of fructose. A high level of uric acid can lead to an increased likelihood of gout attacks, so sugar might indirectly worsen gout symptoms.
Sugar isn't the only food additive that can worsen arthritis symptoms. People who consume too much sodium might also experience an increase in joint pain. Similar to the circuitous link between sugar and arthritis, sodium indirectly exacerbates arthritis symptoms by raising an individual's blood pressure and increasing water retention, which leads to more swelling and stiffness.