There may be some opposing views about whether eating sugar can cause diabetes. While sugar can contribute to the development of diabetes it is not the only factor involved. In this article, we will explore what diabetes is and what causes it, and discuss ways for people with diabetes to manage it to maintain the appropriate blood sugar levels and eat healthy foods that are good for you too.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a condition that can occur when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or when the body can’t use insulin properly. Your body uses insulin to take glucose, also called blood sugar, into its cells to provide you with a source of energy. When your body stops producing insulin or the cells stop using it to take in glucose, this causes blood sugar levels to become too high which can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, kidney damage, and eye damage among many other problems if not managed properly.
Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body can’t produce insulin at all. It usually develops sometime between childhood into early adulthood, which is why it is also called juvenile diabetes, although it can occur at any age. When you have type 1 diabetes, your immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas which causes your body to stop making it and can lead to health problems. Type 1 diabetes is not preventable and it is uncertain what triggers it.
Type 2 diabetes is when the body can’t use insulin properly and usually develops in adulthood, although it can occur at any age too. This happens when the cells in your body can’t use insulin to take in glucose, which is called insulin resistance. It is the most common form of diabetes, is usually preventable, and can occur due to lifestyle choices such as exercise and diet.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy when blood sugar levels are too high. Most women who have gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar levels by making healthy food choices and being physically active. It usually will go away after the baby is born but it can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Does eating sugar cause diabetes?
While sugar consumption can’t directly cause diabetes, eating too much of it can contribute to weight gain and obesity which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes which is monitoring your sugar intake is key. When you have excess body weight or are obese, your body can become resistant to insulin which can lead to type 2 diabetes over time. Sugar calories are also empty calories, meaning they contain a lot of calories while providing little to no nutritional value which is why they should be avoided.
What causes diabetes?
There is no one answer to what causes diabetes and it is dependent on which type of diabetes you have. Type 1 diabetes can be caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Type 2 diabetes is most often caused by lifestyle choices such as obesity, lack of physical activity, and poor diet but genetics can be a factor too. Gestational diabetes is caused by your body making extra hormones that produce glucose during your pregnancy. For gestational diabetes, most people’s bodies can handle the extra glucose by producing more insulin. However, if the insulin levels are low or you have insulin resistance, then this can lead to high blood sugar levels and diabetes.
How do I manage my diabetes?
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to work with your healthcare team to create a management plan. This can include taking medication, making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet and being physically active, and monitoring your blood sugar levels. Each of these can be integral to managing your diabetes and we will explore each one below.
If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need to take insulin every day to manage your blood sugar levels. These are usually administered through insulin injections or an insulin pump. You may also need to take other medications as well. If you have type 2 diabetes, you may be able to manage your blood sugar levels with just diet and exercise alone but some people may supplement this by taking medications such as metformin, sulfonylureas, or thiazolidinediones.
Making healthy lifestyle choices
One of the best things you can do for your diabetes, no matter which type, is through making healthy lifestyle choices. This includes eating a balanced and nutritious diet, being physically active, and moderating your alcohol intake. Eating a healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, regulate your blood sugar levels, and reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions. Sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, should also be avoided as they also contribute to an unhealthy diet. Although everyone needs carbohydrates, carb counting may be beneficial to ensure you maintain a healthy diet. Being physically active can help improve your overall health and your insulin resistance by using any excess glucose for energy while moderating your alcohol intake can help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Monitoring my blood sugar levels
It’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels on a regular basis. This can help you identify trends and make adjustments to your treatment plan as needed. You can use a home blood sugar monitoring kit or go to your doctor for regular blood tests.
What foods are healthy for a diabetes diet?
A healthy diet for someone with diabetes is typically a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products. It is important to eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day to help control blood sugar levels to make sure there are no drastic dips or spikes. It’s also important to limit your intake of sugar, saturated and trans fats, and sodium as well as unhealthy processed foods. Healthy food such as fruits may contain lots of natural sugars which is why the diet needs to be balanced with other beneficial foods and drinks.
Can you prevent diabetes?
You can often delay or prevent type 2 diabetes by making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet and being physically active. If you are at high risk for type 2 diabetes, your doctor may also prescribe medication to help regulate your blood sugar levels. There is currently no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes but researchers are continually working on new treatments and therapies.
Diabetes is a serious condition caused by high glucose levels in your blood and all types can be managed by making healthy lifestyle choices, taking medication, and monitoring your blood sugar levels. Despite the myth, eating sugary foods does not directly cause diabetes although the empty calories are not good for you and can contribute to high blood sugar levels and obesity which increases your risk of diabetes. All types of diabetes should take their diabetes medications as prescribed by their doctor. Eating a balanced diet and being physically active can help prevent or delay the onset and your risk of type 2 diabetes while there is currently no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. If you have more questions or if you think you have diabetes please talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.
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