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Sugar Consumption and an Increased Risk of Diabetes

Because diabetes is characterized by too much sugar in the blood, many people wonder if too much sugar consumption is what leads to it. While it is true that high sugar consumption increases the risk of diabetes, it is only one piece of a whole puzzle, and there are actually many other factors, such as your diet in general, your lifestyle and genetic characteristics with which you were born. In addition, sugar comes in different forms, and therefore the question arises: does every form of it play a part in developing diabetes? This article will talk about that plus more findings available on this issue, which may help to relieve your fears and give you an idea of things you didn’t know were endangering you with diabetes.


What happens in the body when we consume sugar?

When we talk about sugar, we often think of sucrose, the kind of sugar that comes in the form of white powder that we add to tea or coffee. Sucrose contains one molecule of glucose and a molecule of fructose, and when we consume this sweet ingredient, those molecules break down before it is fully absorbed into the blood. This process increases blood sugar, and as a result, the pancreas begins to secrete insulin, the hormone which allows sugar to be used by cells. While small amounts of fructose do provide energy, most of this compound moves to the liver, where it becomes fat.

So, does sugar intake increase our risk of diabetes?

Many studies have been conducted on this issue, including one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Zhejiang, China, which found that people who regularly consume sweet drinks have a 25 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This happens both directly and indirectly; When sugar reaches the liver and turns into fat, it can cause fatty liver disease, which can increase your risk of diabetes; At the same time, the weight gain that sugar causes may also lead you to be at increased risk of developing the disease. Therefore, experts recommend not consuming more than 10% of your daily calories in the form of sugar; But this isn’t the end on the subject ...


Natural sugar has a different effect on the body

Natural sugar is found in fruits and vegetables and is different from that found in soft drinks. Because this sugar comes along with fiber, water, and antioxidants, it is digested and absorbed in the body more slowly, and therefore does not cause a sharp increase in blood sugar levels. In addition, the concentration of sugar found in fruits and vegetables is lower than that found in other food or drink in the same amount; For example, a peach has 8% sugar, compared to a chocolate snack that can contain no less than 50% sugar.

There are various studies - such as that published in 2015 - that suggest that consuming a daily portion of fruit reduces one’s risk of diabetes by 7-13%, as opposed to going through a whole day without eating any fruit at all. What about fruit juices you ask? Researchers have not yet reached a definitive agreement on the relationship between drinking natural fruit juices and the increased risk of developing diabetes; Some studies show that there is indeed a link between the two, probably because of beverages that contain a high amount of sugar relative to the amount of fiber in them.

Natural sweeteners, such as sugar or agave syrup, are made from vegetable sources, but the same products we buy in stores often add processed sugar. Because honey sold in the supermarket may contain a high amount of sucrose and fructose, you should consume it in moderation, just as you would regular sugar.


Do artificial sweeteners increase the risk of diabetes?

Artificial sweeteners aren’t used by the body to create energy like sugar, so they don’t add many calories. Although artificial sweeteners don’t increase blood sugar levels, they are still linked to the development of insulin resistance, which may increase your risk of diabetes. A study published in 2009 funds that drinking a diet drink every day, for example, increased the risk of diabetes by 25-67%, compared to those who went a full day without drinking one.

The exact reason for this is not yet clear to researchers, but they speculate that artificial sweeteners increase craving for high-sugar foods and that the consumption of sweets increases which, therefore, increases the risk of diabetes, making the link between artificial sweeteners and the disease indirect. However, a study conducted in Israel by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in collaboration with Ichilov Hospital shows that the consumption of artificial sweeteners causes changes in the number of bacteria in the liver and intestines that help our bodies digest glucose, and as a result these sweeteners may have a direct effect on increasing the risk for diabetes.

Other factors that increase your risk of diabetes

While sugar consumption may affect your risk of diabetes, you should also know the other factors that play a role in the process:

  • Bodyweight: A study published in 2013 found that obesity is one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes. However, losing 5-10% of body weight reduces the risk significantly.
  • Lack of exercise: People who do not exercise at all are twice as likely to have diabetes. 150 minutes of fitness a week can reduce this risk.
  • Smoking: A person who smokes 20 or more cigarettes a day has twice the risk of diabetes than non-smokers. However, when you stop smoking, the risk drops immediately.
  • Sleep apnea: If you suffer from this sleep disorder, your risk of getting diabetes is higher, therefore you should consult your doctor to find out how to deal with the problem.
  • Genetics: If one of your parents has diabetes, there is a 40% chance that you will develop the disease at some point or another, and if both of them have it your chance of developing it rises to 70%.

Diet rules for diabetes prevention

Besides reducing the amount of sugar you consume, there are a few other changes in your diet you can make if you want to reduce your chances of developing diabetes:
  • Eat healthily: Eat more nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains every day
  • Drink coffee: A study conducted at Sydney University shows that every cup of sugar-free coffee you drink per day reduces your risk of diabetes by 7%. However, consumption of more than 5 cups of coffee per day is dangerous to health, so avoid exceeding this amount.
  • Eat more leafy green vegetables: In a study published in 2010, intake of leafy green vegetables was associated with a 14% reduction in the risk of diabetes.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation: In a study published in 2005, drinking up to 4 cups of alcohol per day could reduce the risk of diabetes by 30 percent compared to not drinking or drinking too much. However, for general health, it is recommended not to consume more than one glass of wine per day.
If you still have difficulty reducing the amount of sugar you consume, for example, in hot beverages, try to avoid at least sweet beverages, which are the main source of high and dangerous sugar consumption. This little change can make a huge difference.
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