Is excess consumption of sugar not a risk factor for type 2 diabetes?

By May 31, 2023 Health

We came across the following post on the social media platform Reddit:

The image in the post displays an informational label next to boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. The photo appears to have been taken in a supermarket or similar store. The label carries a logo of the Dutch multinational food retail franchise SPAR.

The label reads, ‘Did You Know? Obesity & insulin resistance is the risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes and not the consumption of excess sugar.’ The label, which is prominently headed ‘Beat Diabetes’, additionally has the slogan ‘Eat Healthy. Live Healthy’.

What the Experts Say

Type 2 diabetes is a disease where high blood sugar levels lead to disorders of the circulatory, nervous and immune systems, which may in turn result in conditions such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.

The high blood sugar levels are caused by a body’s resistance to insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the movement of blood sugar into cells to be used as energy. Resistance to insulin leads to less blood sugar entering cells, thereby resulting in higher blood sugar levels.

According to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board, there are several factors that contribute to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These include obesity, lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, family history of the disease, age, and medical history of other diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or gestational diabetes due to hormonal changes during pregnancy.

The Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) in the US also indicates that ethnicity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives, along with some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans, are considered to be more highly predisposed to developing type 2 diabetes.

The CDC also adds that ‘people of Asian heritage in the normal weight range may have too much visceral fat (hidden fat that surrounds the organs) and be at risk of type 2 diabetes at a lower BMI’. Visceral fat is an important factor in the behaviour of hormones and is linked to insulin resistance.

Is High Sugar Intake a Risk Factor?

Excess consumption of sugar is not listed as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes as eating a lot of sugar does not appear to cause diabetes directly. However, high sugar intake is strongly associated with type 2 diabetes.

Excess sugar consumption can indirectly heighten risk of type 2 diabetes by contributing to a high calorie intake, which may result in obesity. For people who are already diabetic, eating too much sugar may lead to blood sugar spikes that exacerbate or trigger health conditions.

While type 2 diabetes is chronic, preventing it is possible. In prediabetic individuals with elevated blood sugar levels, a healthy diet low in added sugars is recommended as part of the steps that can best reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes developing. These are usually recommended in conjunction with lifestyle changes that promote weight loss and regular physical activity.

Sweet Nothings

While it is not possible to determine if the informational label is authentic, if it were to appear in supermarkets next to boxes of chocolate as depicted in the photo, it may amount to deceptive marketing. The high levels of added sugars in many chocolate products mean that excessive consumption of them would not align with healthy eating habits.

The informational label also omits several additional risk factors when focusing on obesity and insulin resistance, which misrepresents the nature of type 2 diabetes. The delivered message appears to be that sugar consumption levels should not be a concern for those who do not suffer from obesity or insulin resistance, which is not true. There is a failure to acknowledge the indirect link between excessive sugar consumption and obesity, or the fact that managing sugar intake is essential for those at risk.

In conclusion, it is factually true that excess sugar consumption is not a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

However, the informational label is highly misleading as sugar intake levels correlate with rate of incidence of type 2 diabetes, and high sugar consumption can indirectly contribute to risk factors.

Leave a Reply