One of the more prevalent sugar myths is that it causes diabetes. This misconception likely occurs because diabetics' blood sugar levels are often out of whack, so they have to watch their sugar intake. But in general, there is no direct cause and effect between sugar consumption and the development of diabetes with one exception, which we'll discuss in a minute.
- Type 1 diabetes develops if your body's pancreas can't make insulin. Insulin is a hormonethat takes the sugar from the foods we eat and allows it to enter our tissues, where our body can use it as fuel, or energy.
- If your pancreas is making insulin, but it's not enough or the insulin doesn't work properly, you'll have Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes typically occurs in people who are overweight, inactive and eat a diet high in calories from any source, not just sweets.
- Some pregnant women develop gestational diabetes when the hormonal changes from pregnancy affect the way their insulin works.
So what's the exception to the sugar-diabetes linkage? People who regularly down lots of sugary drinks (sugar-sweetened soda, fruit drinks) are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Of course, many people who guzzle sugary drinks are overweight and eat poorly, two factors that can cause Type 2, but studies show even those who are trim and eat healthily are more likely to develop diabetes if they're also drinking lots of sugary drinks [source: Harvard School of Public Health].
Author's Note: 10 Myths About Sugar
It's too bad there's so much confusion out there about sugar. My personal feeling? Everything in moderation.
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- Harvard School of Public Health. "Soft Drinks and Disease." (Jan. 28, 2015) http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/soft-drinks-and-disease/
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- Joslin Diabetes Center. "Can I Eat as Many Sugar-Free Foods as I Want?" (Jan. 23, 2015) http://www.joslin.org/info/can_i_eat_as_many_sugar_free_foods_as_i_want.html
- Kids Health. "Questions & Answers." April 2013. (Jan. 21, 2015) http://kidshealth.org/parent/question/infants/gestational_diabetes.html
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- McDougall, Dr. John. "Sugar, Coated with Myths." The McDougall Newsletter. September 2006. (Jan. 17, 2015) https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2006nl/sept/sugar.htmhttps://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2006nl/sept/sugar.htm
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- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Proposed Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label." Aug. 1, 2014. (Jan. 23, 2015) http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm
- Web MD. "10 Diabetes Diet Myths." (Jan. 16, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/10-diabetes-diet-myths
- Wolraich, Mark, David Wilson and J. Wade White. "The Effect of Sugar on Behavior or Cognition in Children. A Meta-analysis." The Journal of the American Medical Association. Nov. 22, 1995. (Jan. 21, 2015) http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=391812
- World Health Organization. "WHO opens public consultation on draft sugars guideline." March 5, 2014. (Jan. 23, 2015) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2014/consultation-sugar-guideline/en/
HowStuffWorks targets five foods marketed as healthy that are often aren't, like sweet potato fries, protein bars and low-fat salad dressings.