Can sugar actually cause diabetes?

You all have heard about diabetes. It has in recent times seen a sharp rise in its infliction. If nothing is done about it, diabetes will continue to affect a large portion of the population. It is characterized by a high sugar level in the blood.

One of the most common questions people ask endocrinologist is whether eating sugar directly can cause diabetes? While for sure a diet consisting of sugary items can increase your risk, there are other factors to consider. The disease is not just about what you eat but is dependent on a whole range of other things.

Before we proceed towards any further discussion, let us first gain an insight on diabetes.

Diabetes. What is it?

If your body is unable to secrete insulin that regulates blood sugar level, then you suffer from diabetes. Insulin is the hormone in charge of transporting sugar into the cells which are then utilized for respiration. When the pancreatic cells become resistant or unable to secrete this hormone, the sugar remains in the blood. That’s the reason why you experience a high blood sugar level. It is important to consult a doctor when faced with such a situation. If no treatment is carried out whatsoever, then this could result in further complications like heart disease etc.

Endocrinologists classify two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. In the Type 1 Diabetes, the ability of the pancreas to secrete insulin is inhibited due to a disruption in the immune system. It is mostly genetical and occurs during birth. In the Type 2 case, the body will naturally not respond to the secretion of insulin regardless of it being produced or not. Unlike Type 1, Type 2 is not genetical. It will occur due to external changes like disturbed physical routine pattern, diet etc. The infliction rate of this type stands much higher than its type 1 counterpart.

Sugar and risk of diabetes

Numerous studies have been conducted to find the relationship between the ingestion of sugar and diabetes. In a lot of findings, it was concluded that, yes, a diet comprised mainly of sugar can enhance the risk of diabetes. In fact, if you drink any sweetened beverage on daily basis, your risk factor increases by almost 15%. We can observe this scenario in countries where the sugar consumption is high. For these very countries, more people are also inflicted with Type 2 diabetes. It is not about whether you fulfil your daily calorie requirement or not. Even if you rely solely on sugary drinks for your entire day, your chances of infliction are still significant.

Now it is important to understand why is that the case?

A diet characterized by high sugar intake affects your body both directly and indirectly. It contributes directly when fructose starts affecting the liver. It promotes inflammation which in turn leads to a higher insulin resistance.

Indirectly, sugar can still increase your risk of diabetes. It does so by making the person obese and overweight. A high amount of fat deposit on the pancreas can interfere with the function of insulin secretion. In addition, a high intake of sugar can also lead to a greater feeling of hunger. As a result, the person feels the urge to overeat which further leads to obesity.

Your endocrinologist would advise you to cut down on sugar to not more than 10% of total calorie intake. There exists a prominent relationship between sugar and diabetes. Yet, scientists believe more studies are still required to have a more conclusive verdict.

Does natural sugar increase the risk?

If you consume a high amount of processed refined sugar, then you increase your chances of diabetes. However, this may not entirely be true for sugar that occurs naturally. Natural sugar can be found in fruits and vegetables and do not go through any sort of manufacturing processes. Cane sugar is one such example. These sugar do not directly increase the risk of diabetes because they get absorbed much slower. As a result, the blood does not experience an elevated rise in sugar level. In fact, research studies have shown that fruits containing natural sugar are considered much healthier for the heart. They have less total calories per unit compared to processed sugary items.

Most people would like to consume fruits in the juice form. The question henceforth arises, will that increase the risk of diabetes? Scientists are quite unsure and studies are being carried out for one final answer. One proposition states that since fruit juice contains a high amount of fructose, that gets deposited onto the liver. This, as a result, can lead to diabetes. On the other hand, some scientists believe that this is not entirely the case. The fructose,  while may be present in juices, are unlikely to cause any serious damage within the body. Either way, to arrive at a more meaningful conclusion, we should wait for further research studies.

Natural and Artificial Sweeteners

One common thing people will do is resort towards alternatives to sugar. These alternatives mainly consist of natural and artificial sweetener. It is now pertinent to explore whether both of these have any sort of link with diabetes.

Natural Sweeteners

Honey and maple syrup are the two most prominent examples of natural sweeteners. For certain, both of these items are extracted from plant source yet still undergo refinement process. When refined, they are loaded with fructose which can increase the risk of diabetes. It is thereby important to not consume them excessively rather keep a balance.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners go through a rigorous manufacturing process to instill the substances with a sweetened flavour. One other added advantage is that these artificial sweeteners supposedly contain fewer calories per unit. This may sound really healthy but there is a dark side to consider as well.

Most of the artificially processed sweeteners contain aspartame which has long-term consequences. In the short term, they may not cause any significant harm. However, in the long run, the sweeteners may increase the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

If you thought a can of diet soda to be particularly healthy, then you are greatly mistaken. In a research conducted, it was found that a can of diet coke a day increases the risk of diabetes by somewhere between 25% to 65%.

On the other hand, the chemical substance, aspartame contained within these sweeteners can still indirectly cause obesity. It induces cravings for more sugar items putting the body at a greater risk of weight gain.

Research studies are ongoing to find out more about artificial sweeteners. From what we have available, it suffices to say that they do actually have the tendency to cause diabetes.




Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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