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Can Sugar Cause Diabetes? Myths Vs. Facts

You know that when you have diabetes you suffer from high levels of blood sugar. However, simply owing to the fact that the word sugar is often used in association with diabetes, many people wonder if eating sugar is causing diabetes. While it is true that eating large amounts of sugar can of course significantly increase your risk of getting diabetes, this does not mean that sugar intake is the only cause of diabetes. The fact is that there are many myths associated with whether sugar can cause diabetes. Today we try to separate out the myths from the facts of whether sugar can cause diabetes.

Can Sugar Cause Diabetes? Myths Vs. Facts

Fact or Myth: Is Sugar Intake Related to Diabetes?

A commonly heard concept is that the more sugar you eat, the likelier you are to get diabetes. But what does the science say about this? Many studies have found that people who are regularly consuming sugary drinks have a 25% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes as compared to people who opt for drinking water or non-sugary beverages. In fact, it has been found that even if you drink just one sugar-sweetened beverage per day, it will increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by 13%. It has also been observed that countries that have the highest consumption of sugar also have the highest rates of type 2 diabetes and the countries that have the lowest sugar consumption, have the lowest rates of type 2 diabetes.

Even after variations in alcohol consumption, exercise, body weight, total calorie intake, and other factors, the link between sugar intake and diabetes has definitely been proven without a doubt. However, this is not to say that sugar causes diabetes. These studies only indicate that there is a strong association between sugar intake and diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes.

Some researchers believe that the consumption of sugar increases the risk of diabetes not just directly but in an indirect manner as well. Sugar directly increases the risk of diabetes due to the impact fructose has on the liver such as inflammation, increasing the chances of fatty liver, and promoting localized insulin resistance. These direct impacts are known to give rise to abnormal insulin production from the pancreas, thus increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

But How Does Sugar Raise The Risk Of Diabetes Indirectly?

Indirectly, sugar intake contributes to weight gain and an increase in body fat since the excess fructose gets stored as body fat. These are known risk factors for developing diabetes. Furthermore, studies on animals have indicated that consuming too much sugar can cause disruptions in the signaling pathways of leptin. Leptin is a hormone that gives rise to feelings of fullness. If this signaling pathway gets disrupted, it leads to overeating and weight gain.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that you should be consuming no more than 10% of your daily calories from artificial sugars that are not found naturally in foods. This should reduce the negative effects of too much sugar consumption.

Myth or Fact: Natural Sugars Can Also Cause Diabetes

It has been proven that consuming too much artificial or added sugar has a clear link to diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes. However, what if you consume natural sugars? Consuming natural sugars is not known to have any link to diabetes.

Natural sugars are those that are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. They have not been added during processing or manufacturing. These natural sugars get digested and absorbed by the body because they exist together with fiber, water, nutrients, and even antioxidants. These natural sugars get absorbed slowly by the body, thus preventing a spike in the levels of blood sugar.

In fact, fruits and vegetables contain very little sugar by weight when compared to processed foods. This is why it is easy to keep a check on how much natural sugar you are consuming through fruits and vegetables. The fact is that studies have found that eating one serving of fruit on a daily basis actually reduces the risk of diabetes by 8 to 13%.

Myth or Fact: Does Fruit Juice Also Cause Diabetes?

There is no clear verdict on whether fruit juices have a link to diabetes. Some studies have found that there is a link between consuming 100% natural fruit juices and developing diabetes, but not all studies concluded the same results. It is expected that the high content of sugar and fiber present in the 100% natural fruit juice contributes to an increased risk of diabetes. Nevertheless, more research is still needed to conclusively say whether fruit juices cause diabetes or not and to say positively whether this is a myth or a fact.

Myth or Fact: Can Artificial Sweeteners Cause Diabetes?

Artificial sweeteners add sweetness to any food or dish without adding any calories. However, these are man-made and cannot be metabolized by the human body for energy use. Artificial sweeteners do not increase the blood sugar levels in the body, but they have been linked to type 2 diabetes and the development of insulin resistance, particularly in young adults who, trying to opt for a healthier lifestyle, actually end up causing themselves more harm by choosing to use artificial sweeteners.

The fact is Artificial Sweeteners do increase the risk of diabetes. Researchers have not been able to find any clear reason as to why artificial sweeteners increase the risk of diabetes, however, there are a number of theories behind this.

One reason could be that these artificially sweetened products increase a person’s cravings for sweet foods. This increases the consumption of sugar, leading to weight gain, thus increasing the risk of diabetes.

Other studies support the fact that artificial sweeteners change the number and type of bacteria that live in the colon, contributing to glucose intolerance and weight gain, increasing the risk of diabetes.


There is no doubt about the fact that excessive amounts of added sugar can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. The reason behind is that consumption of high amounts of sugar increases the risk of obesity and also causes damage to the liver. Natural sugar, on the other hand, does not increase your risk of diabetes and are, in fact, good for your health.

Apart from sugar consumption, your body weight, diet quality, exercise, and genetics, also have a big role to play in the development of diabetes. Therefore, it is not correct to say that sugar alone causes diabetes.

Also Read:


Apovian, C.M., 2004. Sugar-sweetened soft drinks, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Jama, 292(8), pp.978-979.

Johnson, R.J., Perez-Pozo, S.E., Sautin, Y.Y., Manitius, J., Sanchez-Lozada, L.G., Feig, D.I., Shafiu, M., Segal, M., Glassock, R.J., Shimada, M. and Roncal, C., 2009. Hypothesis: could excessive fructose intake and uric acid cause type 2 diabetes?. Endocrine reviews, 30(1), pp.96-116.

Johnson, R.J., Segal, M.S., Sautin, Y., Nakagawa, T., Feig, D.I., Kang, D.H., Gersch, M.S., Benner, S. and Sánchez-Lozada, L.G., 2007. Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease–. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 86(4), pp.899-906.

Taubes, G., 2011. Is sugar toxic. NY Times Magazine, Apr, 17.

Johnson, R.J., Nakagawa, T., Sanchez-Lozada, L.G., Shafiu, M., Sundaram, S., Le, M., Ishimoto, T., Sautin, Y.Y. and Lanaspa, M.A., 2013. Sugar, uric acid, and the etiology of diabetes and obesity. Diabetes, 62(10), pp.3307-3315.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 12, 2019

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