Less Is More with Added Sugars
The sugar-diabetes connection: diabetes rates go up in countries when sugar is more available
Human beings are wired to love sugar. It’s in our genes, a relic of a time when calories were a lot harder to come by than today. Now, in the Western world, more than enough calories are found at the drive-thru, the corner store, or the nearest vending machine. What does this mean for our collective health? When it comes to added dietary sugars, it means less is probably more.
The big picture
Researchers used United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization data to study the connection between sugar availability in the diets of different populations and type 2 diabetes rates in those groups. They determined availability of six different food categories--sugars, fibers, fruits, meats, cereals, oils, and total food--in calories per person per day, in 175 different countries, for a ten-year period from 2000 to 2010.
Other factors that may affect type 2 diabetes rates, such as how much of a population is rural versus urban, and average levels of income, age, sedentary behavior, and extra weight or obesity were studied as well. The researchers found:
No other foods were significantly associated with type 2 diabetes.
Smarter sweetening strategies
The study is observational, so it can't prove cause and effect. Still, the results suggest too much sugar can damage health. Dr. David Katz, MD Director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center notes, "A direct link between sugar and diabetes stands to reason." Adds Marion Nestle, PhD, nutrition and public health professor at New York University, "It shouldn't surprise anyone that eating a lot of sugar is bad for your health."
Our tips can help you find the natural--not added--sweetness in your diet:
(PLoS ONE 8: e57873. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057873)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.