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Does Eating Too Much Sugar Cause Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease which occurs due to the rise in blood sugar or blood glucose levels. It is said that eating a lot of sugar can increase the risk of diabetes. Apart from that, your diet, lifestyle and genetics also play a role in increasing your diabetes risk.

What Is Diabetes & What Causes It?

When your body is unable to regulate blood sugar or blood glucose levels diabetes occurs. This happens when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas which helps glucose obtained from food to get into the cells to be stored or used for energy [1] . Insulin helps stabilize your blood sugar level and prevents it from getting too high or too low.

Diabetes is of two types - type1 diabetes (the body doesn't make insulin) and type 2 diabetes (the body doesn't make enough insulin or can't effectively use it). The former one is rare and caused by genetics. The latter accounts for more than 90% of diabetes cases.

Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, Risks, Diagnosis And Treatment

How Is Sugar Metabolized By The Body?

Table sugar contains sucrose, a disaccharide consisting of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Sucrose is also found in processed foods. Sucrose is made from sugar beets or sugarcane.

When sucrose is consumed, the fructose and glucose molecules are separated by enzymes in your small intestine before they are absorbed into the bloodstream [2] . This leads to an increase in blood sugar levels and triggers your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin then moves glucose out of the blood and into the cells where it can be metabolized as energy.

Even a small amount of fructose is driven into the cells and used for energy and the rest of it is carried to the liver where it is converted to either glucose for energy or stored as body fat.

Excess sugar will be converted into fatty acids and stored as body fat. This further increases the risk of obesity, fatty liver and heart disease [3] , [4] .

Does Eating Too Much Sugar Cause Diabetes?

Numerous studies have shown that people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages daily have a 25% risk of getting type 2 diabetes [5] . Also, drinking one sugar-sweetened beverage per day increases diabetes risk by 13% [6] .

The link between sugar intake and diabetes is strong and researchers believe that sugar elevates diabetes risk both directly and indirectly. It is because of the impact fructose has on the liver, causing fatty liver disease and localized insulin resistance. All these trigger abnormal insulin production in your pancreas and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes [7] .

Indirectly, excess sugar intake leads to weight gain and an increase in body fat, which work as separate risk factors for developing diabetes.

24 Foods That Help Manage Diabetes

Does Sugar Found In Natural Foods Cause Diabetes?

The sugars found naturally in fruits and vegetables are digested and absorbed more slowly and are less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar levels. In fact, fruits and vegetables contain less amount of sugar.

However, studies have shown that eating at least one serving of fruit per day lower diabetes risk by 7-13% compared to eating no fruit [8] , [9] .

Several studies have found an association between drinking fruit juice and developing diabetes, due to the high sugar and low fibre content in it [10] , [11] . However, more research is needed on the topic.

Natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar and agave syrup, which are used as substitutes of sugar contain large amounts of fructose and sucrose. So, consume them in moderation.

Do Artificial Sweeteners Increase Diabetes Risk?

Artificial sweeteners are man-made sweeteners which don't cause a spike in blood sugar levels, however, they have been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance [12] .

Drinking a can of diet soda per day is said to increase type 2 diabetes risk by 25% - 67% [13] .

It is still unclear why artificially sweetened products increase diabetes risk.

Artificial Sweeteners And Their Side Effects

To Conclude...

Reduce the intake of sugar-laden processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, keep your body weight in check, sleep properly and exercise daily to prevent the risk of diabetes.

View Article References
  1. [1] American Diabetes Association (2013). Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus.Diabetes care,36 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), S67–S74.
  2. [2] Goodman, B. E. (2010). Insights into digestion and absorption of major nutrients in humans.Advances in physiology education,34(2), 44-53.
  3. [3] Ouyang, X., Cirillo, P., Sautin, Y., McCall, S., Bruchette, J. L., Diehl, A. M., ... & Abdelmalek, M. F. (2008). Fructose consumption as a risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.Journal of hepatology,48(6), 993-999.
  4. [4] Tappy, L., & Lê, K. A. (2010). Metabolic effects of fructose and the worldwide increase in obesity.Physiological reviews,90(1), 23-46.
  5. [5] Wang, M., Yu, M., Fang, L., & Hu, R. Y. (2015). Association between sugar-sweetened beverages and type2 diabetes: A meta-analysis.Journal of diabetes investigation,6(3), 360–366.
  6. [6] Imamura, F., O’Connor, L., Ye, Z., Mursu, J., Hayashino, Y., Bhupathiraju, S. N., & Forouhi, N. G. (2015). Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction.Bmj,351, h3576.
  7. [7] DiNicolantonio, J. J., O'Keefe, J. H., & Lucan, S. C. (2015, March). Added fructose: a principal driver of type 2 diabetes mellitus and its consequences. InMayo Clinic Proceedings(Vol. 90, No. 3, pp. 372-381). Elsevier.
  8. [8] Li, S., Miao, S., Huang, Y., Liu, Z., Tian, H., Yin, X., ... & Xi, B. (2015). Fruit intake decreases risk of incident type 2 diabetes: an updated meta-analysis.
  9. [9] Li, M., Fan, Y., Zhang, X., Hou, W., & Tang, Z. (2014). Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.BMJ open,4(11), e005497.
  10. [10] Odegaard, A. O., Koh, W. P., Arakawa, K., Yu, M. C., & Pereira, M. A. (2010). Soft drink and juice consumption and risk of physician-diagnosed incident type 2 diabetes: the Singapore Chinese Health Study.American journal of epidemiology,171(6), 701–708.
  11. [11] Bazzano, L. A., Li, T. Y., Joshipura, K. J., & Hu, F. B. (2008). Intake of fruit, vegetables, and fruit juices and risk of diabetes in women.Diabetes care,31(7), 1311–1317.
  12. [12] Nettleton, J. A., Lutsey, P. L., Wang, Y., Lima, J. A., Michos, E. D., & Jacobs, D. R., Jr (2009). Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).Diabetes care,32(4), 688–694.
  13. [13] Imamura, F., O'Connor, L., Ye, Z., Mursu, J., Hayashino, Y., Bhupathiraju, S. N., & Forouhi, N. G. (2015). Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction.BMJ (Clinical research ed.),351, h3576.

Read more about: sugar diabetes
Story first published: Tuesday, September 17, 2019, 13:30 [IST]
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