Diabetes happens when your body is unable to control blood sugar levels. This usually happens when your pancreas produces less insulin or when body cells become resistant to the insulin hormone or both.
Insulin is the only hormone that controls the sugar levels in our bloodstream.
There are 2 common types of diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes is caused when your immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys its ability to produce insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes happens when the pancreas stops producing insulin, body cells no longer respond to insulin, or both. This type is the most common and found in 90% of diabetic cases and is triggered by diet and lifestyle factors.
Sugar metabolism and Insulin
When we eat sugar, it’s digested into glucose and fructose (by enzymes in your small intestine) before being absorbed into the bloodstream. It increases blood sugar levels and signals your pancreas to release insulin.
Insulin takes the glucose out of the bloodstream and shuttles it into the cells where it is metabolized to produce energy. And fructose is transported to the liver and converted into glucose (for energy) or fat (for storage).
Excess sugar is converted into fatty acid and stored as body fat. This can cause diseases like obesity, heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol levels, fatty liver, or gout.
Sugar and diabetes risk
Consumption of sugar does not directly cause type 1 or type 2 Diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells and affects your blood sugar levels.
- Overeating can lead to weight gain and increased body fat and is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. Several studies have also revealed that those who consume sweetened beverages/drinks on a regular basis have a 25% higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. This might be due to Fructose’s influence on the liver, which includes increasing fatty liver, inflammation, and localized insulin resistance. These side effects may cause your pancreas to produce insufficient/faulty insulin, increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- When someone has diabetes, eating too much sugar makes it more difficult for the body to control blood sugar levels.
Natural vs Processed Sugars
- Natural sugars are the sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy, while processed sugars are added to your food as a part of the production/processing/ manufacture of food (like table sugar, caster sugar used in baking, sugars hidden in sauces, ready meals, cookies, chocolates, and drinks).
- Natural sugars are found in foods in a mixture of fiber, water, antioxidants, and nutrients, are digested and absorbed more slowly and fewer chances to cause blood sugar spikes.
- Fruits and vegetables contain far less sugar by weight in comparison to processed sugars. For example, an apple has approx. 10% sugar (by weight), while a Twix bar contains 46% added sugars (by weight).
- The problem with natural sugar comes when you are having fruit juices. Fruit juices have a high concentration of sugars and very little fiber and nutrition and are harmful to your blood sugar levels.
- The same goes for natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. They have very little or no fiber content and should be consumed in moderation, typically not more than 10% of your daily calorie intake
How do I lower my risk of diabetes?
While there is no specific diet to prevent diabetes, here are a few tips that can help lower your diabetes risk.
- Follow an all-natural diet: Your diet should have lots of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and grains. Keep in mind to always eat in moderation.
- Drink coffee without sugar: So, you can’t skip the morning coffee…. But you can skip the sugar you add to it. Skipping the sugar from your cup of coffee can lower the risk of diabetes by 7%.
- Eat green vegetables: Eating green vegetables has been found to reduce the risk of diabetes by 14%.
- Drink alcohol in moderation: Alcohol can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes (depending on how much you drink and whether you eat at the same time). If you want to have that extra beer or that glass of red wine to unwind, do so only in moderation (which means one drink a day). Watching your alcohol intake can reduce your risk of diabetes by as much as 30%.
- Read labels: Keep in mind to read the whole nutrition table to avoid the consumption of excess sugar, as there are over 50 different names/types of sugar (like sucrose, glucose, glucose syrup, dextrose, fructose, hydrolyzed starch, corn syrup, maize syrup, etc.) that can be found in food products.
Eating the right foods and portion control are the keys to lowering the risk of diabetes and living a healthy life.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that stays with you your entire life. But it doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy your life. You just need to focus on a healthy lifestyle to keep yourself fit and reduce the risk of diabetes and its related diseases.
To get a free consultation contact us at 718-DORAL-55. To learn more about diabetes and its management visit our Endocrinology section.