As many know, diabetes is a disease that occurs when the level of glucose in the blood, also known as blood sugar, is too high. This disease brings great problems for health, because our body is weak in certain situations in which it should be prepared.
It is a bit “obvious” to conclude that if this disease consists of blood sugar, the most logical thing is that eating sugar or sweet foods can cause diabetes. However, eating sugar does not mean that we are going to be diabetic. There are many other factors, including the general diet, lifestyle and genetics that will determine whether or not you are prone to diabetes.
Find out what this complex disease is about, how to avoid it and if it is true that sugar can cause diabetes in our body.
What is the diabetes?
Insulin is the hormone needed to get the sugar out of your bloodstream and into the cells. It can happen that the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or does not use it properly, so the glucose stays in the blood and does not reach the cells, causing what would be a high content of sugar in the blood, or also known as diabetes.
There are two main types of diabetes:
Diabetes type 1
It happens when your own immune system attacks your pancreas, and destroys its ability to produce insulin. This case is very rare, representing 5% or 10% of the cases around the world.
Type 2 diabetes
This is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs when the body stops producing enough insulin or when the cells become resistant to the insulin produced, and therefore, results in chronically elevated blood sugar levels.
What happens to us when we eat sugar?
By ingesting sucrose (cane or sugar beet sugar), an increase in blood sugar levels immediately occurs in the body, signaling the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin sends glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells where it can be metabolized for energy.
If we consume more sugar than we burn, our liver converts excess glucose into fat. Some of this fat stays in the liver, but the rest is stored in adipose tissue throughout the body, causing overweight and even obesity. In addition, since sugar can be converted into fat, high intake tends to increase triglyceride levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and fatty liver.
Does sugar increase the risk of diabetes?
Many studies do not prove that sugar can cause diabetes; however, the association is strong.
In a large amount of research it has been concluded that people who regularly drink sugary drinks have an approximately 25% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And that the countries where sugar consumption is highest also have the highest rates of type 2 diabetes, while those with the lowest consumption have the much lower rates.
On the other hand, eating large amounts of sugar can also indirectly increase the risk of diabetes, as it can lead to weight gain or body fat, both of which are risk factors for developing diabetes.
So, to avoid reaching this situation, it is recommended not to eat more than 10% of your daily calories from sugars that are not naturally found in food.
Do natural sugars have a harmful effect?
Natural sugars are sugars that exist in fruits and vegetables; that is, they have not been added during manufacturing or processing, so it can not cause the same effect compared to those sugars that have been processed. In addition, fruits and vegetables also tend to contain much less sugar by weight than many pre-processed foods. For example, a peach has about 8% sugar by weight, while a Snickers bar contains 50% sugar by weight.
Do natural sweeteners cause diabetes?
Natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup are made from natural plant sources; however, they are still highly refined, just like sucrose or table sugar. Therefore, they should be consumed in moderation, like all added sugars.
Do artificial sweeteners cause diabetes?
It is not clear why artificial sweeteners increase the risk of diabetes, but there are a variety of theories.
These artificial substances give humans sweetness without calories; so it means that they do not increase blood sugar levels. However, they are still related to the prone development to type 2 diabetes.
One idea is that artificially sweetened products increase the cravings for sweet-tasting foods, leading to increased sugar consumption and weight gain, and as a consequence risk of diabetes. Another idea is that artificial sweeteners interrupt your body’s ability to adequately compensate for the calories consumed with sugar, because your brain fails to internalize the sweet taste ratio with zero calories.
However, this and many other ideas are not clear and therefore, specifically conclusive, so more research is needed to understand exactly how they relate.
Other risk factors for diabetes
It is clear that eating sugar does not mean that you are going to develop this disease; however, it can be a risk factor like many others. Such are cases such as obesity or overweight, staying inactive; that is, not exercising for a long period of time; smoking tobacco, which can double the risk; and even more, genetics, a factor of great importance, because this is unfortunately a hereditary gene.
What to do to reduce diabetic risk?
Clearly, it is vital to reduce the intake of added sugars. On the other hand, you should follow a healthier diet that does not involve foods with high levels of sugar.
A good diet of whole foods and green leafy vegetables, accompanied by a delicious cup of coffee, may be perfect to achieve this proposal. It is also important to moderate the consumption of alcohol and in the best case, eliminate it and avoid it at all costs, because it contains high levels of sugar that would interfere with your goal to avoid diabetes.
Ingesting sugar is not going to determine that you have diabetes; however, it can be a product that significantly increases the risk of suffering it. Therefore, it is important that you calculate the measures that you are going to consume, because this together with other factors can cause your body to stop producing insulin and, as a consequence, acquire diabetes, a disease that can limit you from doing things that you used to do without any problem.