Dispelling Some Myths About … Diabetes

Myth: Sugar causes diabetes.
Fact: There is an absolute consensus that sugar in food does not cause diabetes. Type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes) is an auto-immune condition triggered by unknown environmental factors such as viruses. Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes) is strongly inherited, but lifestyle factors such as a lack of exercise or being overweight increase the risk of developing it. Because diabetes treatment in the past involved strict avoidance of sugar, many people, wrongly, believed that sugar was in some way implicated in the cause of the disease. But while sugar is off the hook, high GI foods are not. Studies at Harvard University indicate that high GI diets that produce high blood glucose levels increase the risk of developing both diabetes and heart disease.

Myth: Sugar is the worst thing for people with diabetes.
Fact: For a long time strict avoidance of sugar was the mainstay of diabetes diets. Health-care professionals were taught that simple sugars were solely responsible for high blood glucose levels. But research shows that moderate consumption of refined sugar (around 40 grams/1½ oz or 2–3 tablespoons) a day doesn’t compromise blood glucose control. This means people with diabetes can choose foods that contain refined sugar or even use small amounts of table sugar.

What should you do? Try to spread your sugar budget over a variety of nutrient-rich foods that sugar makes more palatable. Remember, sugar is concealed in many foods—a can of soft drink contains about 40 grams of sugar—your entire daily allowance! Most foods containing sugar do not raise blood glucose levels any more than most starchy foods. Kelloggs Cocopops™ (GI of 77) contains 39 per cent sugar while Rice Bubbles™ (GI of 87) contains very little sugar. Many foods with large amounts of sugar have GI values close to 60—lower than white bread. Sugar can be a source of enjoyment and help you limit your intake of high fat foods, but the blood glucose response to a food is hard to predict. Use GI tables and your own blood glucose monitoring as a guide.
—Source: The New Glucose Revolution

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