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From Northants, United Kingdom:

I have a couple of queries about diabetes, if you would be kind to answer them.

I've found on many web sites statements to this effect: "Diabetes occurs when the body can't use glucose (sugar) properly; diabetics have abnormally high levels of glucose in their blood." And, "Eating too much sugar causes diabetes? No. Diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors."

This confuses me because I've always thought eating too much sugar, i.e., sweets, chocolate, ice cream, etc. gives the body too much sugar, thus too much glucose. The body can't handle the overload so diabetes results. But, the above says that isn't the case. If not, how do you develop the condition? And, from what? What are these "environmental factors?" What is the link between overweight people and diabetes? Does the extra fat interfere with the sugar elimination system so the sugar is retained in the body, for example? Does that mean eating excess sweets, etc. won't necessarily cause diabetes? Lastly, we know refined sugars are bad for you (which I thought led to diabetes), but what about natural sugars found in natural fruit? Would eating a lot of mangoes, bananas, etc. lead to a similar condition?


I am afraid you are mixing up old wives' tales and science/medicine. Type 1 diabetes is usually an autoimmune disorder where a genetically susceptible person gets exposed to something in the environment (i.e., chemical, virus, infection) and then the beta cells of the pancreas get damaged and stop making insulin. Type 2 diabetes is mostly obesity related, but still with some unidentified genetic susceptibility, and associated with the pancreas' inability to keep up with the mass of excess energy, fat cells, etc., then insulin deficiency and over time more and more insulin deficiency. Early, this can be treated with increased exercise and decreased calories but then with more insulin deficiency, pills, and eventually insulin. Sugar does not cause diabetes and there is not very much difference between many kinds of fast acting sugars (called glycemic index). A great book for you to read is called Diabetes for Dummies by Rubin and available through or through a local bookstore. This will give you more detailed information.


Original posting 2 May 2006
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