Sugars and starches lower our immunity to infectious diseases

Part 1: Introduction

There is a strong case for infectious bacteria and viruses to cause the atherosclerosis which leads to a heart attack.

In the constant fight against such bacteria and viruses, our bodies have a sophisticated defence mechanism — our immune system. When it is functioning properly, our immune system is far more effective than you might imagine: it can dismantle and rid the body of a transplanted kidney very quickly. It can do the same to invading bacteria and viruses if it is kept in good condition. Unfortunately, in our society the general level of health and, therefore, the general level of our immunity is marginal. We accept a high incidence of all kinds of infections, particularly colds, influenza, herpes, hepatitis, candida, and so on, as normal events we have to put up with. They aren't.

A major part of our immunity relies on cells called neutrophils, a type of leukocyte or white blood cell, which circulate in our blood streams and mop up any bacteria, viruses or other foreign bodies they come across. This process is called phagocytosis (from the Greek Phagein = eat). While this process is an energy requiring mechanism that needs an adequate supply of the blood sugar, glucose, too much glucose has the effect of reducing the neutrophils' ability to ingest and kill off invading bacteria.

The measure of how many organisms one leukocyte can eat in an hour is called the 'leukocytic index' (LI). It is a simple measure: if a leukocyte eats 10 organisms in an hour, its leukocytic index is 10. The neutrophils that we rely on to kill any invading bacteria and viruses form 60 to 70% of the white blood cells in our bodies. They are generally much more active than any other blood cell. It can be disastrous to our health, therefore, if their effectiveness is compromised in any way. Of all the factors in our modern world that are working against our immune defences, our diet is the worst, for this is exactly what happens if we eat too much carbohydrate and too much sugar in particular.

By 'sugar' I do not mean just the white, granulated stuff we serve from a bowl on the table. That is sucrose; the term 'sugar' applies also to glucose, fructose (fruit sugar), maltose (grain sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and honey (a mix of glucose, fructose, sucrose and dextrin).

Part 1: Introduction | Part 2: Leukocytic Index | Part 3: consequences

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Last updated: December 9, 2011