Does Sugar Cause Diabetes? Fact vs Fiction

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Does Sugar Cause Diabetes? Fact vs Fiction

Because sugar has a close correlation to diabetes, the question “does sugar actually cause diabetes” crosses many minds.

Since diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar levels, many people wonder whether eating sugar can cause it.

While it’s true that eating large amounts of added sugar may increase your risk of diabetes, sugar intake is just one piece of the puzzle.

Many other factors — including overall diet, lifestyle and genetics — also impact your risk.

This article reviews sugar’s role in developing diabetes and provides tips for preventing the disease.

Does Sugar Cause Diabetes
What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when your body is no longer able to effectively regulate blood sugar levels.

This can happen when your pancreas stops producing enough insulin, when your cells become resistant to the insulin that is produced or both (1).

Insulin is the hormone required to move sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells — so both scenarios result in chronically elevated blood sugar levels.

High blood sugar levels over a long period can lead to complications like an increased risk of heart disease, as well as nerve and kidney damage, so it is important to keep them in check (2).

There are two main types of diabetes, each with different causes:

  • Type 1: Occurs when your immune system attacks your pancreas, destroying its ability to produce insulin.
  • Type 2: Occurs when your pancreas stops producing enough insulin, when your body’s cells no longer respond to the insulin it produces or both.

Type 1 diabetes is relatively rare, largely genetic, and only accounts for 5–10% of all diabetes cases (3).

Type 2 diabetes — which will be the focus of this article — accounts for more than 90% of diabetes cases and is mainly triggered by diet and lifestyle factors (4).

SUMMARYType 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs when your body stops producing enough insulin or when cells become resistant to the insulin produced, leading to chronically elevated blood sugar levels.

How Sugar Is Metabolized

When most people talk about sugar, they’re referring to sucrose, or table sugar, which is made from sugar beets or sugarcane.

Sucrose is made up of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose bonded together.

When you eat sucrose, the glucose and fructose molecules are separated by enzymes in your small intestine before being absorbed into your bloodstream (5).

This raises blood sugar levels and signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin shuttles glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells where it can be metabolized for energy.

While a small amount of fructose can also be taken up by cells and used for energy, the majority is carried to your liver where it is converted to either glucose for energy or fat for storage (6).

Since fructose can be converted to fat, high intakes tend to increase triglyceride levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease and fatty liver (78).

Fructose metabolism also raises uric acid levels in your blood. If these uric acid crystals settle in your joints, a painful condition known as gout can develop (9).

If you eat more sugar than your body can use for energy, the excess will be converted into fatty acids and stored as body fat.

Read on: Does Sugar Cause Diabetes? Fact vs Fiction

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