How much sugar fuels diabetes?

These days, sugar is a hot topic. And, now, clinical experts are saying way may need to curb our intake of the sweet stuff even more than what some nutritional guidelines currently recommend, if we are to have any hope of tackling the diabetes epidemic.

“At current levels, sugar consumption and fructose consumption in particular are fuelling a worsening epidemic of type 2 diabetes”, say the authors of a paper recently published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. In fact, fructose promotes impaired glucose tolerance more so than other types of carbohydrates, recent studies have shown.

Globally, about one in 10 adults has type 2 diabetes, with the number of people diagnosed having more than doubled from 153 million in 1980 to 347 million in 2008. These figures are on the upward trend, and, frankly, are scary given the other major health consequences, such as cardiovascular disease, which can arise when one develops type 2 diabetes.

So, any research that shines more light on how the condition develops – in which diet plays a major part – will help to save lives. Because, as it stands, type 2 diabetes shortens a person’s life expectancy by 5–10 years.

It’s important to point out that not all sugars are created equal. Based on recent research, the authors specifically state it is added fructose (found in table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, for example) in processed, packaged foods that is the true culprit – not the fructose present in nature’s wholefoods; i.e. fruits and vegetables, which, on the other hand, are likely to have a protective affect against type 2 diabetes.

The considerable body of evidence is undeniable, and is compelling the experts to challenge dietary guidelines that currently allow up to 25 per cent of total daily calories as added sugars. Instead, they state guidelines should be more in line with those recommended by the World Health Organization – 10 per cent of the entire day’s caloric intake, with a proposal to lower it to five per cent – and the American Heart Association – no more than six teaspoons (24g) for women, and nine (36g) for men, daily.

Interestingly, 100 per cent fruit juice – technically, not an added-sugar drink – isn’t exempt from these recommended restrictions, as it provides high amounts of fructose removed from its wholefood form; i.e. whole fruit with the fibre and skin intact.

“Limiting consumption of foods and beverages that contain added sugars, particularly added fructose, may be one of the most effective strategies for ensuring one’s robust future health”, the clinical experts have concluded.

Do you know how much sugar you’re eating? Will these compelling research findings motivate you to change your eating habits?   

Read more at ScienceDaily and the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, published online.

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