Does Sugar Cause Diabetes? Fact vs. Fiction

Diabetes is a disease dependent on sugar levels and people often wonder whether eating more sugar can cause it. Only a few know that although eating large amounts of sugar can increase the risk of diabetes, sugar is not the only reason for diabetes. Your diet, lifestyle and even genetics play a major role in this condition.

Throughout this article, we will talk about how sugar affects diabetes and discuss some tips for preventing this disease.

What is Diabetes?

Before we talk about tips to prevent Diabetes, we need to understand what Diabetes is. 

Diabetes is caused when our body is no longer able to maintain regular blood sugar levels. This mainly occurs when the pancreas is unable to generate enough insulin or if the cells become resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone used to move sugar from your blood to the cell. If the cell is resistant to the sugar, then it will lead to an increased sugar level in the bloodstream. This leads to potential heart disease, as well as, kidney damage.

There are 2 main types of diabetes – 

Type 1 – This happens when your immune system affects the pancreas and hampers its ability to produce insulin. This type of diabetes is quite rare and highly genetic.

Type 2 – This happens when your pancreas stops producing insulin and your cells are irresponsive or resistant to the produced insulin. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes and is affected by diet and lifestyle.

How is sugar metabolized?

Sugar that we consume is generally sucrose made from sugarcane. Sucrose contains one molecule of glucose and fructose each.

When you consume sugar, the molecules get separated by enzymes in the small intestine before entering the bloodstream. This causes your sugar levels to increase. The pancreas then releases insulin to help cells metabolize the sugar for energy. This sugar is converted to glucose for energy or fat or even for storage. The more excess sugar you consume, the more fat is generated. High fructose intake also leads to risk of heart disease and fatty liver.

It can also lead to the formation of uric acid crystals that can cause gout.

Does sugar cause Diabetes?

After knowing what diabetes is and what role sugar plays in metabolism, it’s time to address the real question, ‘Does sugar cause diabetes?’

Various studies have found that people who regularly consume sugar-sweetened beverages have a 25% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Countries with increased sugar intake also have higher type 2 diabetes cases, whereas countries with lowered sugar intake have a lower rate of diabetes.

The link between sugar and diabetes is direct, as well as, indirect. Increased sugar intake leads to fat and weight gain, which also leads to diabetes.

The direct link with diabetes is the increase in fructose levels affecting the liver and pancreas. Natural sugar that is found in fruits and vegetables does not lead to diabetes. In fact, eating one fruit per day reduces the risk of diabetes.

One may think that artificial sweeteners are a savior, but they are man-made and cannot be metabolized by humans for energy. They can also cause type 2 diabetes if their intake is not controlled. Natural sugar, however, is not linked to causing diabetes. Sugar is not the only reason for diabetes. Increased body weight, lack of exercise, smoking and genetics play a major role as well.

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