Myth or Fact: Does Eating Sugar Cause Diabetes?

Since diabetes occurs as a result of high sugar levels in the blood1, people often wonder if eating sugar in itself has a huge role to play. In layman’s terms, people often replace “sugar” with “diabetes” when they address the disease. So, to what extent does sugar influence the chronic disorder, and does eating sugar cause diabetes at all? This article will explore the causes of diabetes2 and the role of sugar, if any, in causing them.

Eating sugar causes diabetes
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1. What is Diabetes?

Diabetes, scientifically termed ‘diabetes mellitus,3‘ is a group of disorders that affect the body’s blood glucose or sugar levels in the blood. Every food item that you consume is broken down into glucose by insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas.

Insulin is responsible for enabling glucose to enter the cells for efficient glucose uptake; However, during deficiency or lack of insulin, glucose fails to reach the cells, thereby accumulating in the blood, causing an increase in the sugar or glucose levels in the body.

2. Types of Diabetes

There are four types of diabetes. Out of the four, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the most common.

2.1. Type 1 Diabetes

On average, 5 to 10% of diabetic patients are suffering from Type 1 Diabetes. This is a condition where the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by an individual’s own body, thereby stopping the production of insulin.4

This results in a deficiency of insulin that, in turn, increases high blood glucose levels. Individuals with this type of diabetes are forced to take more insulin for normal functioning.

2.2. Type 2 Diabetes

In type 2 diabetes, the body fails to react to insulin, resists it, and eventually, the body fails to produce enough insulin. Thereby, failing to control the sugar levels in the blood. The visible development of symptoms of type 2 diabetes 5is much slower than that of type 1 diabetes.

Nevertheless, both types of diabetes affect the level of sugar in the blood, causing complications in the body, especially if left untreated.

3. Common Symptoms of Diabetes

3.1. Frequent Urination

A person with diabetes will urinate much more than an average person would. This occurs when the sugar level in the body is excessively high. The excess sugar content lays heavy work on the kidneys. Hence, a person with diabetes must also understand the relationship between bladder issues and diabetes.

3.2. Fatigue and Nausea

These symptoms usually prevail alongside other symptoms. It could, at most times, be temporary. One might feel lethargic, tired, and fatigued due to high or low levels of sugar in the blood.

3.3. Blurred Vision

Eating Sugar causes Diabetes
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Another temporary symptom that could be caused due to low levels of sugar is blurred vision. This is a prevalent symptom that could occur to anyone who hasn’t eaten sufficient food and is experiencing low levels of sugar in the blood. The condition can be immediately brought back to normal by having foods that immediately spike up your sugar or glucose levels in the body.

3.4. Increased Thirst

Excess sugar or glucose content in the bloodstream makes the kidney work much more in absorbing the glucose, hence there is a need for more water.

3.5. Slow Healing

The activation of the immune system becomes problematic for people with diabetes. Your immune system functionality is reduced. Hence, healing takes a much longer time, and simultaneously the risk of developing any infection is at higher risk for a diabetic person. For example, people with diabetes are more vulnerable to getting infected with the virus during the pandemic than the average population.

3.6. Unexplained Gradual Weight Loss

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Insufficient glucose or energy in the body gradually reduces an individual’s weight. When the body doesn’t receive sufficient glucose, it believes that the body needs to use its backup energy, and those are the fats or the glucose already stored in your body. So, the body utilizes the saved glucose to make up for the deficiency. Hence, weight loss is bound to happen.

4. Does Eating Sugar Increase the Risk of Developing or Worsening Diabetes?

Researchers believe that sugar increases the risk of developing diabetes both directly and indirectly. For example, research recently proved that people consuming an excessive amount of sugary food or drinks are 25% more likely to develop the risk of type 2 diabetes. It has also been proved that countries that consume high amounts of sugar also have more risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Further, several kinds of research have proved the risk of being overweight due to high sugar consumption, and being overweight harms people with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with sugar because it affects the insulin-producing cell in the pancreas. It is entirely physical.

However, with Type 2 diabetes, sugar intake might have an immediate, indirect effect, as being overweight can increase the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. And being overweight and sugar consumption have a long history.

An individual often puts on weight as his calories increase. Sugary foods often have high calories in them; hence, they aid in gaining weight. Eating sugar doesn’t cause type 2 diabetes, but eating high sugar can increase your calorie intake, and high sugar intake will make you gain weight or be overweight, for that matter, and being overweight increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Hence, there is a complex indirect connection between eating sugar and acquiring diabetes.

Hence, there is a strong association between eating sugar and developing diabetes. But does eating sugar become the root cause? No. However, one takes the first step to understanding how these sugar work in the bodies.

5. Main Types of Sugar

5.1. Natural Sugar

Natural sugars are sugars that are naturally found in unprocessed foods. They are found as fructose in fruits, cheese, milk, and many more. Fructose is a simple sugar made up of one molecule of sugar. They are also very compatible with the body system and are easier to digest. You are eating sugar but a healthier one.

Silviarita. Pixabay. / Does sugar consumption increase the chance of Diabetes?

They come along with added vitamins in the source they are extracted from and often are high in fiber and low in calories. Fruits and vegetables are suggested to people with diabetes to keep them nourished.

Having diabetes doesn’t mean that one must stop consuming sugar at all. One must remember that eating sugar is essential for the body. Hence, sugar in the right amount is significant for the normal functioning of the body. Lack of sugar may cause low levels of sugar in the blood, affecting the body’s health and creating complications.

5.2. Natural Fruit Juices

While natural fruit juices have nothing but natural sugars only, there are still mixed results on consuming natural fruit juices while having diabetes. Juices can cause blood sugar spikes rapidly due to their short digestion time.

Fruit juices are often digested in 20 minutes, while the same fruit might take 30 to 40 minutes to digest. Hence, the release of sugar or glucose is much slower when consumed as fruits and vegetables than the release of the same by fruit juices. So, fruit juices might be helpful during hypoglycemia (low levels of sugar in the blood) but might pose a risk if sugar levels are already high. Eating sugar can help overcome hypoglycemia here. However, eating sugar in any form must be carefully monitored.

Here are some natural sources of sugar:

  • Fruits: Orange, apple, grapes, guava, sugar cane, mango, cherries, banana, pomegranate, strawberries, lemon, avocado, kiwi, watermelon, papaya, and many more.
  • Vegetables: Carrots, sweet potato, tomatoes, green peas, beetroot, and many more.
  • Dairy Products: Natural sugar is available in the form of lactose in cheese, milk, and other similar dairy products.

5.3. Added Sugars

Aside from the two main types of sugar, there is also added sugar, sugar molecules that are artificially added to the food to increase the sweetness of a dish. Several dieticians have recommended artificial sweeteners have minimal or zero calories. The cany help reduces calorie intake through sugar without letting go of the sweetness.

HansMartinPaul. Pixabay. Copyright 2022.

Nevertheless, more research shows that people eating sugar or added sugar in excess quantities have the risk of increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. The reason behind the same is still being uncovered.

However, several side effects must be careful. Since they are zero in calories, the body continues to be hungry due to a lack of calories. Hence, it will increase the appetite, which indirectly could lead to being overweight, and as seen before, being overweight can pose risks for people with type 2 diabetes.

6. Diet for Diabetes

It is important to follow the proper diet to take care of the body. Eating sugar or not is a part of the diet plan. Whether one is suffering from any health condition, one must always be careful of what one consumes. Eating sugar is a part of the process.

To begin with, patients with diabetes must always check the low levels of sugar in their blood. One must decide one’s consumption and adjust it according to the body’s glucose levels. Blood sugar levels can easily be checked at home using a glucometer.

6.1 Foods You Must Consume if You Have Diabetes

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole-grain foods such as wheat, ragi, bajra, and many more.
  • Dairy products: No fat or low fat will be a healthier option.
  • Protein: Lean meat, red or white meat, fish, nuts, peanuts, eggs

6.2 Foods You Must Avoid to Control Your Blood Sugar Levels

  • High-calorie food
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes (look for non-starchy vegetables as an alternative)
  • White rice
  • Sugary drinks
  • Sugary foods like deserts

One can always consume sweet things with choices. Eating sugar can be unhealthy. It is best advised by experts to avoid refined sugars. Not just those suffering from diabetes but those with normal health conditions as well must avoid refined sugar. It has high calories and very minimal nutritional value. White sugar loses its nutrition content due to its high processing; hence, looking for healthier options is always a good choice.

Healthier options include jaggery or minimal usage of artificial sweeteners. Being diabetic will not prevent you from eating sweet products in itself. Try healthier alternatives instead of eating sugar. Irrespective, one must always consult a nutritionist, dietician, or personal doctor for a meal plan.

7. Treatment of Diabetes

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Additional intake of insulin is the most common form of treating a diabetic patient. These insulin shots must be taken according to the doctor’s advice. Besides following your medicines and following up with your doctor, it is essential to bring some lifestyle changes to complement and fully utilize the work of the medicines. Inefficient practice can cause diabetes.

  • Healthy Diet
  • Regular exercise (Walking, skipping, yoga, or anything that fits you the best)
  • Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels
  • Quitting Alcohol
  • Having sufficient sleep

Many who are affected by diabetes still live long and healthy life due to their lifestyle practices. Having a health issue should never stop you from enjoying the beauty of life. Make small changes each day; most importantly, you must all consume food in the right way.

8. The Right Way

Eating sugar can impact your body in many ways, positively first, sugar is a basic carbohydrate that is necessary for the healthy functioning of the body. However, if not consumed appropriately, that is, if taken at extremely low or extremely high levels, it will pose an immediate effect on blood sugar levels and indirectly have an impact on causing diabetes.

Hence, eating sugar causes indirect effects on developing or worsening diabetes. It doesn’t hold a direct impact but must be consumed more consciously. Every food is healthy unless not consumed appropriately, even eating sugar. Excess natural sugar, too, can have a negative impact. Hence, it is not about what you consume always, but how you consume.

The most nutritious of all food consumed at the wrong time might impact health negatively. So instead of just worrying does eating sugar causes diabetes or not, you must also put in the effort to understand how food reacts and works in your body.

  1. Yang, I-Ping, et al. “High blood sugar levels significantly impact the prognosis of colorectal cancer patients through down-regulation of microRNA-16 by targeting Myb and VEGFR2.” Oncotarget 7.14 (2016): 18837. ↩︎
  2. Marx, Jean. “Unraveling the causes of diabetes.” (2002): 686-689. ↩︎
  3. Alam, Uazman, et al. “General aspects of diabetes mellitus.” Handbook of clinical neurology 126 (2014): 211-222. ↩︎
  4. Sonksen, P., and J. Sonksen. “Insulin: understanding its action in health and disease.” British journal of anaesthesia 85.1 (2000): 69-79. ↩︎
  5. Grootenhuis, P. A., et al. “Development of a type 2 diabetes symptom checklist: a measure of symptom severity.” Diabetic Medicine 11.3 (1994): 253-261. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


R Shishma Jeevitha
  1. Diebetes is a common disorder among various generation special older generation, your article really provides a detailed guide for everyone like me who is searching for the reality of this common question. Thank you for clearing all my doubts.

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