Approximately 1.2 million Australians have been diagnosed with diabetes. Up to 90 per cent of those cases is type 2 diabetes, which, unlike autoimmune type 1, is strongly linked to lifestyle.
With type 2 diabetes also costing around $6 billion a year, scientists are racing to identify the risk factors… and too many studies are pointing to sugar for it to be ignored.
As World Diabetes Day raises awareness, let’s take a closer look at the link between sugar and type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is rising – and can strike anyone.
There’s no denying that the rates of type 2 diabetes are climbing. Experts reckon that for every four confirmed diagnoses, a fifth person is living with diabetes without knowing it.
The increase is surely linked to the obesity epidemic – more than 60 per cent of Australians are now overweight or obese. But even people of a “normal” weight can be diagnosed (and they may even have double the risk of complications than obese people with with illness).
Even more worrying, rates are rising in children and adolescents, where it was previously only seen in middle age or older adults.
So, what’s changed? To sum up Australia’s latest Health Tracker, too much processed food and not enough exercise. And sugar, lots and lots of sugar.
The link between sugar and type 2 diabetes is getting stronger.
While there are more than 300 genetic variants related to type 2 diabetes and even more individual risk factors, the science increasingly pinpoints sugar as a catalyst for the illness.
Before type 2 diabetes develops, the body starts failing to respond to the hormone insulin, which triggers the metabolism of glucose (sugar) into energy. This is known as insulin resistance.
Scientists think that rapid, repetitive consumption of sugars and processed carbs can lead to the condition… and eventually to type 2 diabetes.
Just look at the massive studies which have linked sugar consumption (especially that of sugary drinks) to type 2 diabetes.
- Data from more than 300,000 people (the largest study of its kind) found just one to two serves of soft drink a day would increase type 2 diabetes risk by 26 per cent.
- A meta-analysis of more than 3,000 studies found a strong connection between fructose consumption in industrialised foods and the development of metabolic syndrome (a precursor of type 2 diabetes).
- An analysis of 2,874 adults found that more than two 200ml soft drinks a day made subjects 2.4 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
- A 14-year study found adults who consumed around one can of sugary soda a day were 46 per cent more likely to develop prediabetes than low or non-consumers.
- Dropping 40 per cent of sugar in drinks may prevent 300,000 new cases of diabetes in the UK in 20 years, says the prestigious journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.
Can quitting sugar help with preventing – or managing – type 2 diabetes?
We’ve heard quite a few stories of people reversing prediabetes when returning to a low-sugar, whole foods lifestyle.
And this seems to be backed up by stats – according to Diabetes Australia, “the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced by up to 58 per cent by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and following a healthy eating plan”.
But can quitting sugar help manage type 2 diabetes? While the current GP guidelines say it’s unnecessary to eliminate all sugars (and we actually agree with this), the ultimate requirement is “a sensible, balanced eating plan”. Sounds like Just Eat Real Food to us!
But note, diet is a not a replacement for individual medical advice! If you‘ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, see a doctor before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.
For more information about type 2 diabetes or support with living with diabetes, visit Diabetes Australia.