Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a disease that occurs when a person's blood sugar level, or as it is known to most of us - blood glucose, is too high. Blood glucose (blood sugar) is our body's main source of energy, provided by the food and drinks we consume.
There are two main types of diabetes, each with different causes: Type 1 occurs when our immune system attacks the pancreas, destroying its ability to produce insulin. Type 1 is relatively rare and mainly genetic. Statistics show that only 5-10% of all diabetes cases are type 1. Currently, there is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. Type 2 occurs when our pancreas stops producing enough insulin, or when the cells in our body stop responding to the insulin it produces, or both. Type 2 has been shown to be preventable by adjusting our lifestyle.
This short article focuses on type 2 diabetes and summarizes its relationship to high sugar consumption. In order to use glucose as an energy source, our bodies need help getting the glucose from the food we eat into our cells. The tool our body uses to get the glucose into our cells is insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Unfortunately, sometimes our bodies don't use insulin well or can't make enough insulin - or any at all - which means glucose stays in our blood without being able to reach our cells. Over time, high glucose levels in our blood can lead to serious health problems. This is why diabetics need to inject insulin (or take another medication) to bring their blood sugar levels back down. Sugar in your diet does not directly cause type 2 diabetes - but eating too much sugar can contribute to risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Regularly eating a lot of sugar contributes to obesity, which is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Several large-scale studies show that people who regularly consume high sugar beverages and foods that also contain sucrose and fructose have a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
*Sucrose & fructose - naturally occurring sugars found in varying amounts in plants such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. Sucrose is also commercially produced from sugar cane and sugar beets.
Getting a lot of sugar into our system at once causes our body to release insulin to use the sugar as fuel or store it for later. But this rush of sugar can cause our bodies to produce more insulin than necessary, which can lower blood sugar levels too much and make us hungry. This condition means that our body has an energy problem. We can get hungry because our body thinks it needs more fuel, when it doesn't. When we feel hungry all the time, we tend to eat more than we need, which can lead to overeating, obesity, and eventually diabetes.