Diabetes Q&A: Can Eating Too Much Sugar Cause Diabetes?

by Cindy

Can Eating Too Much Sugar Cause Diabetes?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: rosy outlook
 Diabetes mellitus is a condition that is associated with many different myths about how it develops, how to treat it and what can happen when you have it.  One of the most commonly misunderstood things about diabetes is the association between sugar intake and the development of this disease.  Numerous patients worry that over-consumption of sugars, sodas, candies and more can cause diabetes to develop due to a state of sugar overload.  So what exactly is the answer to the question, can eating too much sugar cause diabetes?

Does Eating Sugar Cause Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes does not develop because patients eat too much sugar.  Type 1 diabetes is not linked to sugar consumption in any way. 

Type 1 diabetes develops because an autoimmune process that is not fully understood destroys the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.  Patients who develop type 1 diabetes lose the ability to produce all insulin.  This means that without treatment with insulin injections patients with this disorder will develop hyperglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis symptoms and eventual death.  At this time, there is no known way to prevent the development of type 1 diabetes.

Can Eating Sugar Cause Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is also not directly caused by eating too much sugar.  The development of type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with obesity and lifestyle, such as poor exercise habits and diet.  Patients who consume high calorie foods and do not exercise are at the highest risk for obesity.  Over time excessive insulin production results in less sensitivity to this hormone and higher blood sugar levels within the body.  Initially the pancreas will combat this problem by producing more insulin.  This places considerable stress on the pancreas over time and can result in the burn out of these cells and development of type 2 diabetes.  In short, eating sugar is not a direct cause of type 2 diabetes.  However, a diet high in fats and sugars contributes to obesity which is a leading risk factor for this condition.

If you have pre-diabetes or are concerned that you are at risk for developing diabetes, ask your doctor how diet and exercise choices can affect your chances of progression to type 2 diabetes.  A healthy diet combined with exercise and weight loss are your best weapons in the fight against type 2 diabetes.

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