How blood sugar levels can impact immune health.
Immune health has been, and will most likely be, one of the top reasons consumers seek supplementation. While other categories of supplements may be perceived as situational—sports and joint health products, for example—immune health seems to always be relevant no matter the individual or the time of year.
Early infancy and the aging demographics are the most concerning with regard to immune health. Both are considered at-risk due to a newborn’s immature immune system and the senior demographic facing the everyday effects of aging and typically a more sedentary lifestyle. However, this does not mean that younger generations aren’t worried about their immune health as well. According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, approximately 73 percent of Americans consume dietary supplements, and about 32 percent of those consume supplementation to improve their immune health (2019).
Our immune system plays a significant role in how the rest of the body functions. Seventy to 80 percent of the immune system resides in the gut,1 meaning it directly affects gut health and vice versa. The gut is also connected to brain health, and an unhealthy immune system can cause mood and cognitive function issues. But improper or chronic inflammation is the root of immune system dysfunction.2 It’s been reported that this type of inflammation is responsible for around 80 percent of non-communicable conditions, including obesity, heart health concerns, respiratory issues and blood sugar complications,3 with the latter being an underestimated and rarely discussed immune health challenge.
Blood Sugar Levels and Their Connection to Immune Health
High blood sugar, even within a prediabetic range, can cause various health complications, including a dysfunctional immune system, debilitated cardiovascular function, and the breakdown of vital organs. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), approximately a third of the U.S. population is prediabetic, but more than 84 percent of those people are unaware that they have it, and symptoms usually go unnoticed. However, if not addressed, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes.4
Research has shown that adults with type 2 diabetes have lower natural killer (NK) cell activity than those with lower blood sugar levels.5 And high blood sugar affects the immune system in multiple ways, including impairing white blood cell function.
At the same time, the increase in sugar can potentially create an imbalanced microbiome with increased “bad” bacteria compared to normal glucose groups.6 Additionally, one study investigated the relationship between blood sugar levels and the immune system and it solidified the negative effect previously discussed on cytokine production and immune cell function. The cytokines that play key protective roles against pathogens and for adaptive immune response were reported as being suppressed, thereby also suppressing the body’s immune defense. T cells and leukocyte production was reduced, and neutrophils and macrophages debilitated, leaving the body open to attack and exacerbating potential health complications.7 Therefore, insulin secretion and glucose uptake must be improved to fully address the negative impact of high blood sugar on immune health.
The good news: there are interventions a person can take, including incorporating a healthy diet, active lifestyle and dietary supplements for an efficacious, safe and cost-effective approach to prediabetes management and improved immunity.
The Published Data
Decades ago, Ingredients by Nature began exploring the standardization of citrus extracts and now provides the widest variety of citrus bioflavonoids on the market. Our branded Brewster Bioflavonoids are drawn from multiple citrus sources—orange, lemon, lime, tangerine and grapefruit—with each source contributing to and supporting aspects of immune health. Research has also shown that citrus flavonoids provide powerful support for a healthy inflammation response. This, in turn, helps to encourage a balanced, not overactive, immune response. For example, our patented lemon-flavonoid blend, Eriomin, has two published human clinical studies, with a third under peer review, demonstrating its ability to indirectly support the immune system by helping improve vital processes that influence a functioning immune system, including a healthy inflammation response and strengthening antioxidant defense.8,9
The first study investigated Eriomin’s triple-pronged functionality to aid in a healthy inflammation response, blood sugar support and oxidative stress capacity. Over the 12-week study, biochemical, metabolic, inflammatory, hepatic, renal, anthropometric markers, blood pressure and dietary parameters were measured. The results indicated that with 200 mg/day, Eriomin reduced the secretion of multiple inflammatory cytokines, including IL-6 by 13 percent, hsCRP by 12 percent, and TNF-a by 11 percent. This is due to the citrus flavonoids’ ability to activate PPARg expression and inhibit NFkB8. Of additional importance, study participants experienced 24 percent lower blood glucose levels putting them below the prediabetes threshold.8
The second published clinical data found that Eriomin benefited the glycemic control of study participants with elevated glucose levels by increasing GLP-1, decreasing systemic inflammation, and increasing antioxidant capacity.9 Specifically, the inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (-13 percent), hsCRP (-12 percent), and TNFα (-11 percent) experienced a significant decrease.
Eriomin continually demonstrates powerful effects for normalizing blood sugar levels, supporting a healthy inflammatory response and antioxidant capacity, therefore improving and strengthening the immune system.
To conclude, inflammation plays a significant role in our health, for better or worse, and heightened blood sugar levels can weaken the immune system. By supporting a healthy inflammatory response, blood glucose and antioxidant capacity, individuals can strengthen their immune systems and fight against prediabetes with clinically validated ingredients. NIE
1 Wiertsema SP, van Bergenhenegouwen J, Garssen J, Knippels LMJ. The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 9;13(3):886. doi: 10.3390/nu13030886. PMID: 33803407; PMCID: PMC8001875.
2 Suzuki K. Chronic Inflammation as an Immunological Abnormality and Effectiveness of Exercise. Biomolecules. 2019 Jun 7;9(6):223. doi: 10.3390/biom9060223. PMID: 31181700; PMCID: PMC6628010.
3 Rath L. Arthritis, Inflammation and the Immune System | Arthritis Foundation. www.arthritis.org. Published June 8, 2022. www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/related-conditions/physical-effects/inflammation-and-the-immune-system.
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prediabetes – Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published February 22, 2019. www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html.
5 Neuffer, P. (2019, February 15). Type 2 diabetes weakens immune function. Retrieved February 03, 2021, from www.healio.com/news/endocrinology/20190214/type-2-diabetes-weakens-immune-function.
6 Tello, MD, M. (2017, January 25). What is prediabetes and why does it matter? Retrieved February 03, 2021, from www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-prediabetes-and-why-does-it-matter-2017012511025#:~:text=High percent20blood percent20sugar percent20impairs percent20the,These percent20facts percent20scare percent20me.
7 Afiat Berbudi*, Nofri Rahmadika , Adi Imam Tjahjadi and Rovina Ruslami, “Type 2 Diabetes and its Impact on the Immune System,” Current Diabetes Reviews (2020) 16: 442. https://doi.org/10.2174/1573399815666191024085838.
8 Ribeiro CB, Ramos FM, Manthey JA, Cesar TB. Effectiveness of Eriomin in managing hyperglycemia and reversal of prediabetes condition: A double-blind, randomized, controlled study. Phytother Res. 2019 Jul;33(7):1921-1933. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6386. Epub 2019 Jun 11. PMID: 31183921; PMCID: PMC6618084.
9 Cesar TB, Ramos FMM, Ribeiro CB. Nutraceutical Eriocitrin (Eriomin) Reduces Hyperglycemia by Increasing Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 and Downregulates Systemic Inflammation: A Crossover-Randomized Clinical Trial. J Med Food. 2022 Nov;25(11):1050-1058. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2021.0181. Epub 2022 Jul 7. PMID: 35796695; PMCID: PMC9700344.
Rob Brewster is the president of California-based Ingredients by Nature. As a third-generation ingredient manufacturer for the natural products industry, Brewster is proud to be part of the health and wellness world. He followed in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, helping their company Brewster Foods grow since he joined in the 1990s and then partnering with Syntech to form Ingredients by Nature, a world leader in citrus bioflavonoids and extracts. As president, Brewster invests heavily in citrus flavonoid science for condition-specific applications and holistic wellness. For more information, visit IngredientsbyNature.com.