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Does Sugar Cause Diabetes? Fact vs Fiction

  • timeline Dr. Sreelekha Daruvuri
  • 3 Min Read
  • Fact Checked

When we were kids, most of us might have snuck into the kitchen, had a handful/mouthful of sugar, and were often warned by our mothers that eating so much sugar leads to Diabetes. Skip forward to now, and we are seeing a rise in Prediabetic and Diabetic cases – that’s no surprise because India is the Diabetic capital of the world. We can not put the blame on genetics completely, as our lifestyle changes is the main culprit here. But, does sugar cause diabetes? Can skipping sugar prevent abnormal blood sugar levels? To answer this heavy weighted yet common question, this article will dive into the understanding behind high glucose levels and its relationship to the chronic condition, Diabetes.

What causes Diabetes?

Insulin, a hormone produced by the Beta cells of the pancreas, maintains blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when the beta cells are unable to maintain the blood sugar levels due to either less insulin being secreted by the body, or the body not responding to the insulin being secreted.

There are two types of Diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2.
– Type 1 is due to the destruction of beta cells which reduces the amount of Insulin. The patient is given insulin injections so glucose levels can be maintained.
– Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the insulin that is produced is high but the body does not respond well to it leading to high Insulin resistance and increased glucose levels.

Common high blood sugar symptoms

– Loss of weight
– Increased appetite
– Increased thirst
– Increased urination
– Slow-healing wounds
– Tiredness
– Blurred vision
– Tingling or numbness in hands and feet

Insulin resistance can occur due to many factors such as obesity and/or the lack of physical activity. But back to the question you want answered, does sugar cause Diabetes? The answer is a little complex. Diabetes is not caused by just eating sugars – the risk of diabetes can be increased by consuming excess carbohydrates as well, which include sugars.

Our food contains carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. After the process of digestion, carbs are processed into glucose and released into the blood. This glucose comes not only from sugar and sweets but from other foods like our daily food items, rice, roti, bread. Excess sugar can also lead to increased chances of fatty liver and obesity.

Sugar, what we commonly call table sugar or caster sugar (sucrose), is made up of glucose and fructose. Consuming it increases the blood glucose levels and subsequently, insulin is released to control these levels. While we may think that we’re consuming sugars in the form of just tea and coffee, we often forget that sugars are also present in different sauces, fruit juices, and notoriously soft/soda drinks. 

You may be wondering, what about the fruits that you consume? Can they cause Diabetes due to the sugars in them?

Fruits like apples, guavas, and pears are packed with additional fiber, nutrients, and antioxidant content. This is absorbed slowly leading to fewer Insulin spikes. But this does not mean that one can consume only fruits as a part of their diet because even fruits contain carbs like Fructose. Additionally, fruit juices have added sugars that can increase the risk of Diabetes. So having a limited quantity of fruits per day is advised. Even artificial sweeteners may increase the risk of Diabetes but the exact reason is not known yet.

How to control sugar intake and excess calories?

WHO recommends a daily sugar consumption of less than 30gm – that is roughly 6 teaspoons. This includes the ones used for tea or coffee or any sweets that you may consume. In order to avoid excessive calorie intake:
–  Switch to whole grains and nuts which will slowly absorb glucose in the blood
– Stop consuming alcohol and sweetened beverages due to the high amount of carbohydrates which will eventually lead to excess fat deposition
Physical activity is equally important to decrease the Insulin resistance

Remember, Diabetes can be reversed with a proper diet and lifestyle changes. The symptoms may not be obvious and that is why it is advised to get a health check done for sugar levels at least once a year after the age of 30. Any abnormalities in glucose levels can be dealt with initially and furthermore can help the patient avoid the use of any medications. Instead of believing in the myths that you hear, consult a diabetologist and get your doubts about the chronic condition cleared. With the help of a dietitian, you can understand how much carbohydrates your body needs to consume among other nutritional factors.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that needs to be managed regularly to avoid complications. With MFine, you can keep on top of your treatment, with the 3-Month Diabetes Care PlanThe goal is to reduce your blood sugar levels – not by increasing the medicines, but by decreasing them. This helps in reversal as well. From consultations with top diabetologists and meal planning with dieticians to blood tests and progress monitoring, your health can be cared for effectively.

In this video, diabetologist Dr. Raja Indana, shares the right demarcation between diabetes myths and facts. Watch to understand the own risks and management of the chronic condition.

  • timeline
  • Written by

    Dr. Sreelekha Daruvuri

Primary Care Physician

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