A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but sugar, especially cups of it, won't make COVID-19 go away. Several studies, in fact, suggest that too much sugar may weaken the immune system.
The recommendation to consume sugar to treat the novel coronavirus disease was made by a Facebook user whose post has been shared more than 3,500 times by netizens. Some of them wrongly concur there was nothing to lose by trying this “traditional” treatment.
The Facebook user, who says he is from Cotabato, urged President Rodrigo Duterte to consider his solution while waiting for a vaccine for COVID-19:
BAKIT HINDI PO NATING SUBUKAN ANG MGA TRADISYUNAL NA GAMOT KAGAYA NLANG PO NG ASUKAL, YES PO ASUKAL PO ANG GAMOT SA COVID 19 (Why don’t we try traditional medicine such as sugar, yes, sugar to treat COVID-19)…
As proof, he offered to be infected with the virus and to keep consuming a cup of sugar till he got well:
PATUNAYAN ANG MGA SINASABI KO DITO.HANDA KO PO I-OFFER ANG AKING SARILI PARA MAPATUNAYAN NA ASUKAL ANG GAMOT SA COVID 19,HANDA DIN PO AKO NA MAGPAHAWA SA MAY COVID 19 PATIENT KUNG KINAKAILANGAN BASTA BIGYAN NYO LANG PO AKO NG 1 CUP OF SUGAR AT YAN LANG ANG AKING KAKAININ HANGGANG SA AKO AY GUMALING (I’ll prove what I say here. I will offer myself to prove that sugar is the cure for COVID-19. If needed, I’m ready to be infected by a COVID-19. Just give me a cup of sugar, and that’s all I’ll take till I get well).
The World Health Organization has repeatedly said there is no cure yet for COVID-19.
It said development of a vaccine is under way through the Solidarity Trial, a large international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19. WHO said:
The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine.
WHO also cautioned against unproven treatments:
While the research for an effective treatment continues, until there is sufficient evidence, WHO has cautioned against recommending or administering unproven treatments to patients with COVID-19 or people self-medicating with them.
A high-sugar diet is known to induce Type 2 diabetes and obesity, which severely threaten human health. A 2018 study found it can also lead to suppressed immune system in Drosophila melanogaster, a common fruit fly that has been used to research human diseases, including diabetes.
An expert, citing a 1973 study, told HuffPost that 75 to 100 grams of a sugar solution, the equivalent of two cans of soda, can hinder the body’s immune functions.
The study said the effects last for at least five hours.
Experts have observed that most severe and fatal cases with COVID-19 have occurred in the elderly or in patients with underlying comorbidities or co-occurring conditions such as diabetes mellitus, a disorder where blood sugar or glucose is abnormally high.
Three systematic reviews that analyzed whether diabetics are more likely to have severe cases of COVID-19 all found clinically significant increased risk, according to the Oxford COVID-19 Evidence Service. It said, however, there is no evidence on whether they are more likely to contract the disease.
Recent studies call for management of diabetics during public health emergencies. One study in Fujian, China found elderly patients with Type 2 diabetes had higher glucose level during the COVID-19 outbreak. Another study in Hubei, also in China, said COVID-19 patients with Type 2 diabetes whose blood sugar is well controlled fared much better than those with more poorly controlled blood sugar.
Adam Brufsky, a professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said conventional means to control blood glucose—diet and exercise—and better control of blood sugar in diabetics, especially when ill with COVID-19, may possibly help control the severity of the disease and even its spread.
Brufsky, A. (2020, April 22). Blood sugar levels may influence vulnerability to coronavirus, and controlling them through conventional means might be protective. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/blood-sugar-levels-may-influence-vulnerability-to-coronavirus-and-controlling-them-through-conventional-means-might-be-protective-136592
Hartmann-Boyce, J. et al. (2020, April 8). Diabetes and risks from COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/diabetes-and-risks-from-covid-19/
Hussain, A., Bhowmik, B., & do Vale Moreira, N. C. (2020). COVID-19 and diabetes: Knowledge in progress. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 162, 108142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.diabres.2020.108142
Sanchez, A. et al. (1973, November). Register, Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26(11), 1180–1184. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/26.11.1180
Weingus, L. (2020, March 23). Eating sugar can weaken your immune system. HuffPost. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sugar-weaken-immune-system_l_5e74ca2cc5b6f5b7c542a3be
World Health Organization. (2020, May 18). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation report—119. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200518-covid-19-sitrep-119.pdf?sfvrsn=4bd9de25_4
World Health Organization. (n.d.). “Solidarity” clinical trial for COVID-19 treatments. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/global-research-on-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov/solidarity-clinical-trial-for-covid-19-treatments
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters
Xue, X., Li, Q.,Zhang, Q, Lin, W., Wen, J., and Chen, G. (2020). Blood glucose levels in elderly subjects with type 2 diabetes during COVID-19 outbreak: A retrospective study in a single center. medRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.31.20048579
Yu, S., Zhang, G., and Jin, LH. (2018, July 15). A high-sugar diet affects cellular and humoral immune responses in Drosophila. Experimental Cell Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yexcr.2018.04.032
Zhu, L. et al. (2020). Association of blood glucose control and outcomes in patients with COVID-19 and pre-existing Type 2 diabetes. Cell Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2020.04.021