Effect of Dietary Sugar Intake on Biomarkers of Subclinical Inflammation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies

Nutrients. 2018 May 12;10(5):606. doi: 10.3390/nu10050606.


It has been postulated that dietary sugar consumption contributes to increased inflammatory processes in humans, and that this may be specific to fructose (alone, in sucrose or in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)). Therefore, we conducted a meta-analysis and systematic literature review to evaluate the relevance of fructose, sucrose, HFCS, and glucose consumption for systemic levels of biomarkers of subclinical inflammation. MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane libraries were searched for controlled intervention studies that report the effects of dietary sugar intake on (hs)CRP, IL-6, IL-18, IL-1RA, TNF-α, MCP-1, sICAM-1, sE-selectin, or adiponectin. Included studies were conducted on adults or adolescents with ≥20 participants and ≥2 weeks duration. Thirteen studies investigating 1141 participants were included in the meta-analysis. Sufficient studies (≥3) to pool were only available for (hs)CRP. Using a random effects model, pooled effects of the interventions (investigated as mean difference (MD)) revealed no differences in (hs)CRP between fructose intervention and glucose control groups (MD: −0.03 mg/L (95% CI: −0.52, 0.46), I² = 44%). Similarly, no differences were observed between HFCS and sucrose interventions (MD: 0.21 mg/L (−0.11, 0.53), I² = 0%). The quality of evidence was evaluated using Nutrigrade, and was rated low for these two comparisons. The limited evidence available to date does not support the hypothesis that dietary fructose, as found alone or in HFCS, contributes more to subclinical inflammation than other dietary sugars.

Keywords: dietary fructose; dietary glucose; dietary sucrose; high fructose corn syrup; inflammatory markers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiponectin / blood
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diet
  • Dietary Sugars / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Sugars / adverse effects*
  • E-Selectin / blood
  • Fructose / administration & dosage
  • Fructose / adverse effects
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup / administration & dosage
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Adiponectin
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Dietary Sugars
  • E-Selectin
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Fructose
  • C-Reactive Protein