Hold the Sugar, Hold the Diabetes
It’s no secret that obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. And it’s also well known that eating too much sugar is linked to obesity. But new research by scientists at Stanford University indicates that sugar intake alone is an independent risk factor for diabetes, regardless of obesity. While this seems logical, the finding actually overturns the conventional wisdom regarding food consumption and diabetes risk. According to the prevailing theory, too many calories increase the risk of developing diabetes. Period. But the new research suggests that not all calories are the same in terms of diabetes risk.
Investigators looked at sugar availability around the world. Their discovered that for every 150 calories of additional sugar in a person’s diet each day (roughly the equivalent of one can of soda), the risk of diabetes inched up about one percent. No other types of foods could be linked to this increased risk, and the risk existed regardless of how active a person was, how old, or how overweight.
Length of exposure to excess sugar, and the amount of sugar consumed, were both linked to an increasing risk of type 2 diabetes. According to a statement, the study’s lead author, Dr. Sanjay Basu, was surprised by the results. The link between obesity and diabetes is well known, but this study showed—unexpectedly—that the availability of sugar in a given population is an independent risk factor for the disease. Basu conducted the study while working with renowned pediatric endocrinologist (and anti-sugar crusader) Dr. Robert Lustig.
Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH. The relationship of sugar to population-level diabetes prevalence: an econometric analysis of repeated cross-sectional data. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57873. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057873. Epub 2013 Feb 27.