Rotten Egg #3 - Sugar & Diabetes

Kid's hand reaching for sugar cube

Pop quiz! Which of the following are risks of excess sugar consumption?

1) Nutrient deficiencies due to displacement of other nutritious food from the diet, 2) Development of dental cavities, 3) Development of Type II Diabetes, or 4) Hyperactivity in children.

On average, North Americans eat about 20 teaspoons (82g) of sugar a day, with most of it coming from foods and beverages that have had sugar added during the processing and/or manufacturing stage. Sugar does supply calories but it also crowds out other nutritious foods from your diet, so give yourself a pat on the back if you chose #1. High intakes of sugar can also increase the risk of weight gain and obesity. However, even though obesity is a risk factor for type II diabetes, high sugar diets DO NOT directly cause diabetes – there’s a big difference!

The premise behind this myth is that since sugar stimulates insulin secretion it exhausts our ability to produce insulin, which causes diabetes. Just a reminder  - the cause of type II diabetes is insulin resistance. Watch out for the following risk factors for diabetes: a strong genetic predisposition, obesity, and physical inactivity NOT a high sugar diet.

So what about #4? Diets high in sugar have been reported to cause hyperactivity in children; however, there is no scientific evidence to support this. ADHD and other behavioural problems are likely due to a variety of non-nutritional factors, so although eating a nutritious diet is important it will not prevent hyperactivity. I read somewhere that sugar has a sedative effect through decreased production of serotonin…that fact alone would bust this myth.

To summarize, sugar does not cause type II diabetes. However, it does cause other major health issues such as: weight gain, obesity, dental cavities and nutrient deficiencies, so please continue to reduce your sugar intake to 26g if you’re a woman or 40g if you’re a man. Here are some suggestions: at the supermarket buy reduced-fat microwave popcorn to replace candy for snacks, in the kitchen use home-prepared items with less sugar instead of commercially prepared ones, and at the table add less sugar to foods such as coffee, tea, cereal and fruit.

Answer: #1 & #2

Image courtesy of Klintberg