Nope. Just nope. This is a big myth which I would like to seriously bust!
Sugar is a type of carbohydrate (glucose) which occurs naturally in foods we eat every day like fruit, vegetables and dairy and it is needed to provide energy to our bodies. However, we are now bombarded by products in our supermarkets which are full to the brim with sugar that is added during manufacturing (these are known as ‘added sugars’). Foods like ketchup, low-fat yoghurts, sauces and soups are just some of the foods that may contain added sugars. So it’s hard to escape it! But, sugar does not directly cause a person to develop Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
To understand this further we need to talk about the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when a persons pancreas stops producing insulin. Insulin is the hormone needed to control the levels of glucose in the body. So if we have no insulin we will have higher levels of glucose in our bodies and that’s no good. We don’t know the exact cause of type 1 diabetes but researchers believe that genetics and viral infections play a key role. Not sugar!
Type 2 is when the pancreas is not producing enough insulin OR the body is not responding correctly to the insulin which is produced- this is called insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is more common in people over 40 years of age, overweight and inactive. Before everyone runs to Tesco to stock up on several packets of jellies and fizzy drinks let’s take a step back and remind ourselves that overconsumption of any food, but particularly those which are high in sugar may lead to weight gain and therefore, type 2 diabetes. Being overweight or obese are one of the leading risk factors for development of Type 2 diabetes as excess weight in the body can cause an increase in insulin resistance. Step away from the pick and mix lads.
Complications related to diabetes include kidney problems, damage to eyes and nerve activity, decreased blood flow to the feet and increases your risk of developing heart disease. Not good.
The best way to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes is to:
- Increase your physical activity
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce intake of sugars, in particular hidden sugars in sauces, soups, etc. Watch out for symptoms of diabetes which include increased thirst, fatigue, blurry vision, frequent urination, increased hunger, weight loss.
Overall health and wellbeing influences disease risk, not individual foods. It’s all about that balanced lifestyle!
Emma Brennan is a qualified Nutritionist and is a registered member of the Association for Nutrition (AFN). Emma attained her qualification in Human Nutrition from Ulster University, Coleraine. Emma has a passion for all things nutrition and health related and her mission is to educate the public about their health and wellbeing through her blogs, videos and nutrition tips online and through the Good4U Nutrition Service provided to schools, sports clubs and businesses.