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Does Sugar Cause Diabetes Or Are Other Factors to Blame?

Does Sugar Cause Diabetes Or Are Other Factors to Blame?

When faced with the question of what causes diabetes, chances are you’ll probably answer sugar. However, the answer to the question of “Does sugar cause diabetes?” is a lot more complicated than that.

Read on to learn about the real connection between sugar and diabetes, as well as what risk factors are to blame for diabetes.

Does Sugar Cause Diabetes?

It’s understandable why a lot of people think that sugar is the main cause of diabetes. After all, high blood sugar levels are to blame for the complications of diabetes, and eating sugary foods does increase a person’s blood sugar levels.

But the reality is that sugar isn’t actually to blame for diabetes. Well, for type 1 diabetes at least.

The prevailing thought behind type 1 diabetes is that its caused by an autoimmune reaction1. This basically means that the body’s immune cells attack insulin-producing cells called beta cells in the pancreas. When this happens, the body can no longer utilize insulin to control blood sugar levels, and this causes diabetes.

For type 1 diabetes, a person’s overall health or lifestyle doesn’t play a role in acquiring the condition. However, genetics does play a role as having a relative with type 1 diabetes can increase a person’s risk.

In the case of type 2 diabetes, however, there is indeed a connection between it and sugar. But it’s not what you’d expect.

Type 2 Diabetes and Sugar

As for the question of “Does sugar cause diabetes?,” the answer is that it can be a factor when it comes to type 2 diabetes.

Whenever we eat sugary foods or foods that are high in carbohydrates, our blood sugar level goes up. In order to keep this at a normal level, our pancreas starts producing insulin in order to deal with the excess sugar in the blood. The body then stores this sugar in the body, particularly in the liver, to use as an emergency source of energy2.

But the reason why sugar can cause type 2 diabetes is not that it increases your blood sugar levels. It’s because eating too much sugar can cause you to become overweight or obese.

We still don’t know the exact cause of type 2 diabetes. However, we do know that certain things, such as being overweight or obese, contribute to a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes. It is believed that the accumulation of fat in the body gradually increases a person’s insulin resistance3.

When it reaches the point that the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to deal with high blood sugar, a person is said to have type 2 diabetes.

And because eating a lot of sugary foods can lead to weight gain, sugar intake can be a factor when it comes to type 2 diabetes. However, it’s wrong to say that only sugar is to blame. The biggest factors are a person’s lifestyle in general.

If a person eats a lot of fatty foods, and they don’t engage in daily exercise, they’re putting themselves at risk for type 2 diabetes4. In order to prevent type 2 diabetes, it’s important to focus on having a healthy lifestyle in general, not just avoiding sugary foods.

How Can You Lower Your Risk of Diabetes?

The most straightforward way of lowering your risk of diabetes is to eat healthy foods. In particular, foods with low glycemic load5, such as cereals, apples, oranges, beans, skim milk, cashews, peanuts, and carrots, are a great addition to your diet.

It’s also a good idea to cut back on red meat, and substitute healthier sources of protein such as fish, lean meat, or tofu.

Exercise is also very important in lowering your risk of diabetes. Engaging in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily can help significantly reduce the risk of not just type 2 diabetes, but heart problems, high blood pressure, and other lifestyle-related illnesses.

Learn more about Diabetes here.

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  1. Sugar and diabetes | Eating with diabetes | Diabetes UK, https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/food-groups/sugar-and-diabetes, Accessed August 10, 2021
  2. Does Eating too Much Sugar Cause Diabetes? – Chicago CARES DPP, https://chicagocaresdpp.org/does-eating-too-much-sugar-cause-diabetes/, Accessed August 10, 2021
  3. Does Sugar Cause Diabetes?, https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/does-sugar-cause-diabetes, Accessed August 10, 2021
  4. Symptoms & Causes of Diabetes | NIDDK, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/symptoms-causes, Accessed August 10, 2021
  5. Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/, Accessed August 10, 2021
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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Aug 12, 2021
Fact Checked by Kristel Dacumos-Lagorza