In our modern diet, sugar is a regular component, but it is the single worst ingredient that you can add to your diet since sugar is considered as an empty calorie.
When a food, usually solid fats, and added sugars, have many calories but few nutrients, we consider them as empty calories. Take all the added sugars everywhere, in our cereals, in our drinks, not to mention all the desserts.
However, there is still the debate about whether sugar causes diabetes or not. Some researchers firmly believe that sugar is among the major causes, whilst others strongly disagree and say that there is no evidence that sugar causes diabetes.
Let’s look a little closer at what is behind the research and what we can take from it.
But first of all, let’s clarify the term “diabetes”, and thereafter see if sugar could be a major cause of diabetes.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is caused when one of these three things happen in your body:
- When your pancreas is not producing insulin,
- When the pancreas is not producing enough insulin to keep sugar levels low enough,
- When your body does not respond correctly to insulin (when insulin is rejected).
The billions of cells in our body need the energy to accomplish all the tasks they have to maintain our body functions. Energy is provided by glucose (blood sugar). Our liver is busily converting foods that we eat into glucose and secretes it into the bloodstream so it can reach all the tiny little cells.
The liver also stores excess sugars. For instance, during a meal, the liver will store the sugars that we eat until a later time when they are needed.
However, once glucose, also known as blood sugar, is in the bloodstream, there is no way it can get into the cells. That is where the pancreas comes into play. The pancreas produces insulin, which is the key which opens the door for glucose to enter the cells and boost their energy.
Insulin is what triggers the liver to store glucose or to shed it into the blood.
Types Of Diabetes
Diabetes Type 1. When you have this diabetes, your pancreas will not produce any insulin at all. Patients suffering this kind of diabetes usually got it while young and it is predetermined in your genetics many times. However, this diabetes can occur to anyone at any given age. This diabetes cannot be cured. Patients can only manage to live with it, but death can be quick if these patients do not receive proper help timely.
I have known a little girl who had been diagnosed with diabetes Type 1 at a very young age. She has to test her sugar levels throughout the day and even in the night. And she gives herself insulin shots throughout the day to control the glucose levels in her bloodstream. I find it fascinating how she, a small girl is brave enough to receive all of these shots and administer them to herself. For her, this is a way of life. She is growing up with it.
Diabetes Type 2. This form of diabetes is caused by either of the following:
- When your pancreas does not produce enough insulin to get the glucose to regular levels,
- When your immune system kills the insulin cells so they cannot assist in opening the door to the cells for glucose. This is also known as insulin resistance: Your body rejects the insulin and prevents it from doing its job correctly.
Type 2 diabetes is more often found in people of middle to old ages. Nevertheless, it can occur in anyone at any age.
Although there are other forms of diabetes, like gestational diabetes, we are not going to discuss them here.
Studies found that by 2015 at least 10% of Americans had diabetes in any of the mentioned forms. The sad thing though is the fact that at least 75% are not aware of the problem or have not been diagnosed, or they are pre-diabetic.
Numbers are rising dramatically year after year and numbers are expected to double in the next 10 years, which will cause a heavy burden to our health system.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented in many cases by doing exercise, a balanced nutrition, and healthy lifestyle. It can also be reversed in some cases when the person is willing to change the lifestyle, but there is no guarantee for that.
The effects of diabetes are detrimental to health:
- It can lead to terrifying amputations because of less circulation around your extremities.
- Dry and cracked skin, which is caused by frequent urination. Your liquid storage is easily depleted.
- Kidney damage
- …and others.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
When our body or certain organs become “numb” to insulin, which means their cells will not be aided by insulin to absorb glucose, our pancreas cannot do its job correctly anymore. This is called insulin resistance.
What happens is that the pancreas starts to produce more and more insulin because of high glucose levels which cannot be taken down appropriately, since the body is resistant to insulin. This automatically accounts for higher levels of insulin in our bloodstream, which is very unhealthy. High levels of insulin trigger more tissue growth. On the long run, this can cause fatness, and potentially cancer.
How Does This Relate To Our Question?
Our question was: Can sugar cause diabetes? How does this relate to what we just learned about diabetes?
Since added sugars are empty calories, they build up in our body as fat because our body can simply not process and use up all the sugar, therefore it is stored in the liver or around other organs as fat, which is commonly known as the unwelcome belly fat.
High sugar amounts are held accountable for insulin resistance because sugar affects our immune system and alters the functions of our body. The excess fat stored in our organs from added sugars, simply said, do not want anything to do with all sugar and therefore do not want insulin either. Since the body cannot function correctly with excess sugars and sweets, not to mention the addiction that it causes, insulin resistance is caused.
And yes, insulin resistance ultimately leads to diabetes. Therefore, sugar is not the only cause for diabetes but it can play a role in becoming diabetic.
Although, as stated above, there is uncertainty whether sugar can cause diabetes or not, there is enough evidence to support the fact that added sugars (table sugar) lead to so many issues in our body which can ultimately lead to diabetes.
The high amounts of sugar which the liver cannot possibly convert into glucose is reason enough to stay away from it.
Should You Eat Sugar After All?
The question might arise if sugar is healthy at all if it can cause all this. Our body does need sugar in order to be able to convert it into glucose, which is ultimately energy for our cells.
However, the appropriate amount of sugar is what you need. Fruit is naturally sugar loaded, which in its natural state is healthy sugar for the body.
However, processed and canned foods are loaded with refined sugars, which are the added sugars. And refined stands for highly concentrated. This is, our foods have highly concentrated sugars, which is way too much for our body.
And yet we consume these refined sugars throughout the day. The modern American diet starts with pancakes, syrup, cereal, yogurt, and others right in the morning. All of these have highly concentrated sugars. So your liver is stressed from the first moments in the morning. And that continues throughout the day.
I am a firm believer that we should consume only sugars in their natural state and only in small amounts. Why would you sweeten your tea or your coffee? Why do you need to eat the piece of cake after a complete meal? Why would you have … the list goes on and on. Is it for the sake of deliciousness? Or could it be that the food addiction makes us crave for more and more sweets?
Is it not enough to eat a banana and an apple for a snack during the day? Our liver can convert other foods that are not empty calories into glucose as well. And it does. There is no need to fill it up with sugar, which it ultimately has to store anyway and eventually stands in the way to proper functioning.
Can sugar cause diabetes? Yes, it can.
I hope you learned something new through this article and that you understand a little better why sugar is not good for your health.
As always, I am happy to listen to you as your comment on the topic. Please share your insights, questions or ideas below so we can learn from each other.
To your health,