Can I Get Diabetes from Eating Too Much Sugar?


If you worry about the amount of sugar and sweets you ingest daily, you have probably wondered if eating too much sugar can cause diabetes?

A recent study suggests there might be a connection between sugar intake and diabetes.

It is important to keep in mind that Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes are caused by different things. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and other unknown factors, while Type 2 is caused by both genetics and lifestyle factors.

Eating too much of any food, like sugar, can cause you to gain weight and being overweight can increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Because of its high calorie content, sugar has often been correlated with weight gain.

However, the results of a study conducted by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at San Francisco suggest that sugar might have a direct and independent link to diabetes.

The research

This study gathered and examined data on sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries in the past ten years. Researchers accounted for obesity and a large array of other factors in order to find an independent link between sugar and diabetes.

What they found was that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.

This study, lead by Sanjay Basu, M.D., Ph.D. and assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, provides the first large-scale, population-based evidence for the idea that not all calories affect a person's risk of diabetes equally.

Evaluating the role of sugar

The findings of the study show that more sugar was correlated with more diabetes. Researchers discovered that for every additional 150 calories of sugar available per person, per day, the prevalence of diabetes in the population would increase by 1 percent.

Furthermore, the longer a population was exposed to excess sugar, the higher its diabetes rates would be. Additionally, the study found that diabetes rates would drop over time when sugar availability decreased, independent of changes to consumption of other calories and physical activity.

Obesity vs. sugar

“We’re not diminishing the importance of obesity at all, but these data suggest that at a population level there are additional factors that contribute to diabetes risk besides obesity and total calorie intake, and that sugar appears to play a prominent role,” Basu said.

Moreover, Basu emphasizes that these findings do not prove that sugar causes diabetes, but that they do provide support for previous studies that suggest sugar affects the liver and pancreas in ways that other types of foods or obesity do not.

Basu said that follow-up studies are needed to examine the possible links between diabetes and specific sugar sources. He also claims that other factors need to be evaluated, such as the influence of specific foods, like soft drinks or processed foods.

Something to look forward to in the future, Basu states, are randomized clinical trials that could affirm a cause-and-effect connection between sugar consumption and diabetes.