Diabetes is a chronic disease in which levels of blood sugar or glucose are higher than normal. This can occur when the body stops producing enough insulin or if insulin is not used efficiently to metabolize glucose as a source of energy. Glucose is generally derived from the food we eat. All carbohydrates, starchy foods, fruits and vegetables contain some amount of sugar, which is then transported throughout the body via blood as a source of energy. However, the causes of diabetes are complex and it helps to understand them to better appreciate the relationship between diabetes and sugar intake.
Depending upon the type of diabetes, the causes responsible for the development of the disease can vary. There are mainly two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
Causes of Type 1 diabetes: In Type 1 diabetes, the immune system begins to attack and destroy the pancrea’s insulin-producing cells. Although the precise causes are not understood, it is believed that genetic and environmental factors are responsible for the development of the disease.
Causes of Type 2 diabetes: The main risk factors or causes for the development of Type 2 diabetes are excess weight, obesity and a physically inactive lifestyle. However, genetic and other lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of the condition.
The factors responsible for the development of diabetes vary depending on the type of diabetes. In the case of Type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Sugar intake has no bearing on the development of the disease, which is instead linked to genetic and environmental factors, as well as exposure to viral infections. In the case of Type 2 diabetes, an unhealthy diet and lifestyle with a lack of physical activity is seen as a major risk factor. Sugar has no direct relation to the development of the disease, but high sugar intake can increase the risk of obesity.
Since diabetes is characterised by high levels of blood sugar, people mistakenly believe simply cutting down on sugar intake can help prevent diabetes. While sugar intake should be moderated, some amount of sugar, especially from fruits and vegetables is essential. However, there may be an indirect relationship between refined sugar or added sugar and diabetes.
What needs to be understood here is that sugar comes in many forms. The natural sugar derived from the consumption of fruits and vegetables does not lead to weight gain. Sucrose or sugar, often called table sugar or free sugar contains a high amount of calories that might increase the weight, raising the risk of diabetes.
Cut down the intake of table sugar wherever possible, such as while drinking tea or coffee.
Instead of consuming snacks with added sugar, such as chocolates, opt for naturally sweet treats like fresh fruits or dry fruits.
Switch to drinking fresh fruit juices instead of colas and aerated drinks.
Reduce your consumption of food with saturated fat. Saturated fat increases levels of cholesterol in the body.
Avoid eating food with reduced-fat levels. Such foods contain a higher level of sugar, needed to compensate for the taste of fat.
Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables to compensate for the reduced consumption of free sugar.