Does Sugar Cause Diabetes? Fact vs Fiction

September 8, 2019

– Type 2 diabetes is a
disease characterized by high blood sugar levels and an inability to
regulate those sugar levels. For this reason many people say that eating sugar is the
cause of type 2 diabetes. Is that the case though? Let’s have a look. (bell ringing) So, a large number of
studies have found that people who regularly drink
sugar sweetened beverages, so drinks with high amounts
of sugar added to them, have a 25% increased risk of
developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, drinking just one
sugar sweetened beverage per day increases your risk by 13%, independent from any
weight gain it may cause. This review and analysis concluded that of 20.9 million events of type 2 diabetes predicted to occur over
10 years in the USA, 1.8 million would be attributable to consumption of sugar
sweetened beverages. And of 2.6 million events in the UK, 79,000 would be attributable to consumption of sugar
sweetened beverages. Additionally, countries where
sugar consumption is highest also have the highest
rates of type 2 diabetes. While those with the lowest consumption have the lowest rate. Now all these studies do not prove that sugar causes diabetes, the association is strong,
we can’t deny that. So what’s going on then? Well, many researchers believe that sugar increases type 2 diabetes risk both directly and indirectly. It many directly increase
risk because of the impact fructose has on you liver, including promoting fatty liver, inflammation and localized
insulin resistance. Eating large amounts of sugar
can also indirectly raise diabetes risk by
contributing to weight gain and increased body fat, which are separate risk
factors for developing diabetes or type 2 diabetes but they’re also very strong risk factors. So the effects of sugar are two-fold. There’s the potential effects
that it is has on your liver and then there’s also the fact that sugar is coming as additional
calories typically. So, those extra calories
lead to weight gain and that weight gain, especially if it’s around
the abdominal area, can lead to insulin resistance and this can then, of course,
lead to type 2 diabetes. Natural sugars don’t have the same effect. Now before you get carried away and throw everything with
sugar out the kitchen window, know that natural sugars
don’t appear to be a problem. Basically natural sugars are sugars that are found in fruits and vegetables, they aren’t added in the
manufacturing process. Since these types of
sugar exist in a matrix of fiber, water, antioxidants
and other nutrients, they’re digested and absorbed more slowly and are less likely to
cause blood sugar spikes. Fruits and vegetables also tend to contain far less sugar by weight
than many processed foods, so it’s easier to keep
your consumption in check. For example, a peach is
about 8% sugar by weight while a Snickers bar or Mars
bar is 50% sugar by weight. And while research is a bit mixed, some studies have found that eating at least one serving of fruit per day reduces diabetes risk by 7% to 13% compared to eating no fruit. Now this makes sense
when you also consider that those who eat more fruit are likely to be making more health conscious food choices overall. Okay, so what about fruit juice? Several studies have found a link between drink fruit juice and developing diabetes perhaps due to juice’s high
sugar and low fiber contents. However, not all studies
have replicated these results so more research is needed. I think if you consider that it is extra calories that you
drink just like soda and it’s highly likely those calories are additional calories
that are putting you into a caloric surplus where you might actually gain weight. And if you do gain weight then it increases your
risk of type 2 diabetes, so in that regard I would say that, yes, juice does contribute. Now, as for natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and agave, even though they are made
from natural plant sources they’re still highly refined, much like sucrose or table sugar. Basically they’re still
sources of added sugar, just like table sugar you
should be having small amounts. Don’t start eating them from the jar. Other risk factors for diabetes. Sugar intake is just
one piece of the puzzle. These are also big factors
in type 2 diabetes risk. First is body weight. Now, as I’ve been talking about before but research shows
obesity is one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Losing just 5% to 10% of your body weight can reduce that risk. Exercise is really important as well, people who live sedentary lifestyles have nearly twice the risk
of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who are active. So just 150 minutes per
week of moderate activity can reduce that risk. Smoking 20 or more cigarettes per day more than doubles your risk of diabetes. Fortunately quitting brings
that risk nearly back to normal. Sleep apnea is a condition
in which breathing is obstructed during the night and this is a unique
risk factor for diabetes but it makes me think poor sleep, poor sleep caused by other reasons is also a factor as well. I think so. And lastly, of course, genetics. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes it’s 40% if one of your parents has it and nearly 70% if both parents have it. So, that suggest a strong
genetic component as well. Okay, so let’s recap. So a high sugar intake
is strongly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. This is likely due to the negative effects that is has on the liver but more importantly
it’s because it increases your risk of weight gain and obesity. The more fat you have
here around your organs especially as you grow older, the more likely you are to
develop metabolic issues. Interestingly, natural sugars found in whole fruits and vegetables are not linked to an
increased diabetes risk. So actually the problem is
sugar in concentrated forms that we manufacture like
soft drinks, fruit juice, cakes, cookies, lollies, et cetera. And in the context of an
excessive calorie intake. So basically if you eat real whole foods and not very much junk foods
then you should be good. And if reducing your added sugar intake seems overwhelming at first, you can just start by cutting
out sugar sweetened beverages like soft drinks and fruit juices. These are the primary sources of added sugars in the Western diet and this one small change
can make a big impact. Thanks for watching, make
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