Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes? For years, scientists have said “not exactly.” Eating too much of any food, including sugar, can cause you to gain weight; it’s the resulting obesity that predisposes people to diabetes, according to the prevailing theory.
But, now a large epidemiological study carried out at the Stanford University School Of Medicine, University of California - Berkeley and the University of California - San Francisco suggests that increased sugar in a populations food supply was directly linked to higher diabetes rates. The paper published in February 2013 by the lead author Professor Sanjay Basu* stipulates -
"Specifically, more sugar was correlated with more diabetes: For every additional 150 calories of sugar available per person per day, the prevalence of diabetes in the population rose 1 percent, even after controlling for obesity, physical activity, other types of calories and a number of economic and social variables. A 12-ounce can of soda contains about 150 calories of sugar. In contrast, an additional 150 calories of any type caused only a 0.1 percent increase in the population’s diabetes rate.
Not only was sugar availability correlated to diabetes risk, but the longer a population was exposed to excess sugar, the higher its diabetes rate after controlling for obesity and other factors. In addition, diabetes rates dropped over time when sugar availability dropped, independent of changes to consumption of other calories and physical activity or obesity rates."
Now, lets put these findings into some form of context:
An average american eats 152 pounds of sugar per year that is equivalent to half a cup of sugar every day. A can of cola has up to 22 tea spoons of sugar - compare this with the daily recommended 6 tea spoons for women and 9 tea spoons for men and it does not take a genius to conclude that we all consume far too much sugar. Drinking just 1-2 added sugar drinks like cola per day increases the risk of one getting type 2 diabetes by 26% compared to limiting it to 1 drink per month.
The main source of added sugar in US comes from items like soda, fruit drinks and juices, sports and energy drinks. However, it is not only drinks that seem to be the biggest culprit, but the addition of the cheap high fructose corn syrup in a multitude of ready meals and junk foods is also a big issue.
Humans are hard wired from birth to prefer sweet things. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate, when eaten they stimulate the feel good brain chemical called Serotonin. Serotonin affects the brain cells related to mood, sexual function, sleep, memory, learning and appetite - No wonder sweet things make us feel good.
Type 1 diabetes is genetic and is triggered by unknown causes. Type 2 diabetes is caused due to genetics and lifestyle factors, but not sugar related specifically. But, being overweight and eating high calorie diets which often include high added sugars can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes.