Does Sugar Cause Diabetes?

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Sugar, in this sense, usually refers to cube sugar, granulated sugar, sugar in soft drinks, glucose D etc. Some even stretch it by including all carbohydrate foods entirely!

What Diabetes Is Not

Sugar is not directly responsible for diabetes. Diabetes is not eating too much sugar. Almost everything we eat eventually turns to ‘sugar’ (glucose). The complex foods we eat on daily basis eventually get converted to glucose after digestion. Glucose is the fuel utilized by the body cells for their metabolic activities.

Without glucose, some of the body cells can still function to some extent by making use of some breakdown products of fat. However, without glucose, the brain cells may not be able to function.

That is why a person with hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) will most likely lose consciousness at certain point because the brain cells will temporarily lose the ability to function in an environment of low blood sugar. If this persists for too long, it may result in permanent brain damage.

The body prevents this by mobilizing glucose from the storage of complex sugar in the liver and other body tissues. This is why there is always sugar in the blood to carry on daily activities even while someone is fasting or abstaining from food for a while. The individual who is not eating subsequently loses some body weight.

This is as a result of the body tissue being mobilised to produce glucose as the fuel needed by body cells in order to carry out the basic activities needed by the body to keep the individual alive. Without this mechanism of storage and conversion, it may be difficult for a person to survive without eating multiple times a day. Thus, ‘sugar’ is necessary for human survival.

The Role of Insulin

Insulin is a hormone the body cells require to recognise and utilise glucose either for immediate metabolic activities or for storage. Without it, possibly only the brain cells will be able to utilise glucose for their metabolism, as they do not need insulin to make use of glucose for their metabolic activities.

This hormone is released by the pancreas, an organ buried deep in the abdomen. The quantity released per time is directly related to the quantity of glucose available in the blood. When the blood glucose is high, high quantity of insulin is released and vice versa.

This is why a normal person does not have excess sugar in the blood at any given time because the body responds to the excess by releasing large quantity of insulin to withdraw the excess glucose from circulation. However, this mechanism fails when the quantity of insulin released does not match the excess glucose in the circulation. This is one of the phenomenons which occur in diabetes.

In addition to the insulin being released, the body cells also have to respond to it through their receptors. The insulin receptors on cells have to recognise and be sensitive to the insulin in the blood circulation. Sometimes, the insulin is present in adequate quantity but there is blunting of response by the body cells to it.

With this, there will be excess glucose available in the blood stream, whereas the body cells will feel there is none because they cannot utilise it due to non-response of the insulin receptors on them. Thus, diabetes is a phenomenon of suffering in the midst of plenty – plenty glucose available around the cells but the cells are still ‘hungry’ because they cannot utilise it. 

Comment 1
This is highly insightful

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