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Can eating too much sugar cause diabetes?

By Dr. Michael Hernandez,

Q: Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes?

This is a question I hear often from my patients. Sugar itself is not the culprit when it comes to diabetes. However, eating too much sugar can lead to obesity, which is a major risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes and other diseases. Eating a healthy diet (which means limiting your refined sugar intake) and maintaining an active lifestyle are key to preventing Type 2 diabetes, especially if you have a family history of the disease.

Here are some other common questions I hear from my patients.

Q: What’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a genetic disease that is not preventable. Symptoms typically begin in childhood or young adulthood. With Type 1, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually eliminating insulin production from the body. Without insulin, cells cannot absorb sugar (glucose), which they need to produce energy.

Type 2 diabetes typically occurs in adulthood, though more children are being diagnosed every year. The body has too little insulin or cannot use insulin effectively. Type 2 can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating sensibly, and exercising regularly.

Q: I was just told I have prediabetes. Do I have anything to worry about?

Having prediabetes puts you at very high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The good news is that you can do something about it. Research suggests that you can cut your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent if you lose 7 percent of your body weight and exercise moderately for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Q: Are people with diabetes more likely to get a cold or the flu?

Having diabetes does not make you more vulnerable to getting a cold or the flu. However, any type of illness can make diabetes more difficult to control. This is why I advise my patients to get flu shots.

Q: Can people with diabetes eat sweets or chocolate?

If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan and combined with an active lifestyle, people with diabetes can eat sweets and desserts. They are no more “off limits” to people with diabetes than they are to people without it. The key to sweets is to have a very small portion and save them for special occasions so you focus your meal on more healthful foods.

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