Effect of Important Food Sources of Fructose-Containing Sugars on Inflammatory Biomarkers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Feeding Trials

Nutrients. 2022 Sep 26;14(19):3986. doi: 10.3390/nu14193986.


Background: Fructose-containing sugars as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) may increase inflammatory biomarkers. Whether this effect is mediated by the food matrix at different levels of energy is unknown. To investigate the role of food source and energy, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials on the effect of different food sources of fructose-containing sugars on inflammatory markers at different levels of energy control.

Methods: MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Library were searched through March 2022 for controlled feeding trials ≥ 7 days. Four trial designs were prespecified by energy control: substitution (energy matched replacement of sugars); addition (excess energy from sugars added to diets); subtraction (energy from sugars subtracted from diets); and ad libitum (energy from sugars freely replaced). The primary outcome was C-reactive protein (CRP). Secondary outcomes were tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). Independent reviewers extracted data and assessed risk of bias. GRADE assessed certainty of evidence.

Results: We identified 64 controlled trials (91 trial comparisons, n = 4094) assessing 12 food sources (SSB; sweetened dairy; sweetened dairy alternative [soy]; 100% fruit juice; fruit; dried fruit; mixed fruit forms; sweetened cereal grains and bars; sweets and desserts; added nutritive [caloric] sweetener; mixed sources [with SSBs]; and mixed sources [without SSBs]) at 4 levels of energy control over a median 6-weeks in predominantly healthy mixed weight or overweight/obese adults. Total fructose-containing sugars decreased CRP in addition trials and had no effect in substitution, subtraction or ad libitum trials. No effect was observed on other outcomes at any level of energy control. There was evidence of interaction/influence by food source: substitution trials (sweetened dairy alternative (soy) and 100% fruit juice decreased, and mixed sources (with SSBs) increased CRP); and addition trials (fruit decreased CRP and TNF-α; sweets and desserts (dark chocolate) decreased IL-6). The certainty of evidence was moderate-to-low for the majority of analyses.

Conclusions: Food source appears to mediate the effect of fructose-containing sugars on inflammatory markers over the short-to-medium term. The evidence provides good indication that mixed sources that contain SSBs increase CRP, while most other food sources have no effect with some sources (fruit, 100% fruit juice, sweetened soy beverage or dark chocolate) showing decreases, which may be dependent on energy control.

Clinicaltrials: gov: (NCT02716870).

Keywords: CRP; food sources; fructose; fruit; fruit juice; inflammation; meta-analysis; sugar-sweetened beverages; sugars; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Beverages
  • Biomarkers
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Fructose*
  • Interleukin-6*
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha


  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukin-6
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Fructose
  • C-Reactive Protein

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02716870