Sugar’s Impact on Diabetes
Of all the health problems caused by or worsened by sugar consumption, diabetes is probably the most blatant. There are several different conditions that fall under the diabetes category, and they are all impacted by the sugars you eat.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases that affect how your body metabolizes carbohydrates and manages blood glucose levels.
Type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes) is a chronic condition where the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Without insulin, the body’s cells aren’t able to take in and use glucose (sugar) from the blood. The exact causes of type 1 diabetes are unknown, and there is no way to prevent or cure it. Diabetes management, however, has come a long way, and monitoring carb intake and taking insulin can keep blood sugar levels in check.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is also a chronic condition affecting over 30 million Americans, but rather than not producing any insulin, in this case the body doesn’t use insulin properly. It is diagnosed through blood tests and is characterized by blood sugar levels that don’t respond properly. There can be a lot of variation within type 2 diabetes, with some people simply needing to watch what they eat and how much exercise they get and others requiring insulin injections or other medications.
Type 2 diabetes is much more related to lifestyle. You can prevent or delay the disease through weight loss, physical activity, and healthy eating. Insulin resistance is complex and multifactorial, and sugar consumption over time certainly plays a role in its development and progression.
Other Diabetic Conditions
In addition to type 1 and type 2 diabetes, there are two other diabetic conditions to be aware of. Gestational diabetes can develop in pregnant women, and prediabetes is a condition that can be diagnosed based on blood tests. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, and type 2 diabetes is likely to develop if lifestyle changes aren’t implemented.
Diabetes Is on the Rise
Just like obesity, the prevalence of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes is increasing. It is not a coincidence, considering how diets have changed over the decades. The sheer quantity of sugar in the American diet combined with how quickly simple sugars are converted into blood glucose impact insulin resistance, and countries with diets higher in processed sugars have higher diabetes risk and rates.
Other contributing factors that predispose someone to develop type 2 diabetes include weight gain, genetics, and even depression. To be clear, the exact mechanisms of developing diabetes are not fully understood, so it’s a stretch to say that sugar directly causes diabetes. Rather, diabetes occurs when your body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates is disrupted, and excessive sugar consumption and weight gain both contribute to this.
High Blood Sugar Levels Can Lead to Health Problems
As cells become more resistant to insulin, sugar accumulates in the blood. Unchecked blood sugar levels can lead to health problems like:
- Heart disease
- Nerve damage (which can even lead to amputation)
- Vision problems and blindness
- Kidney disease
- Gum disease
- And even death
Diabetes and blood sugar should be taken very seriously.
Daily Life Will Never Be the Same
Outside of blood sugar monitoring, diabetes prevention and management are largely the same – both involve making healthy lifestyle choices:
- If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, losing just 5-7% of your body weight can significantly lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check
- Choose healthy foods and avoid added sugars
- Avoid smoking
- Exercise regularly
Making healthy choices is the best way to prevent diseases like type 2 diabetes. By minimizing sugar consumption and leading an active lifestyle now, you can protect your future health and wellbeing.