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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Does eating sweets cause diabetes?

I have a terrible sweet tooth and my blood sugar is normal. I'm otherwise healthy and have no blood pressure problems. Can too many sweets cause me to become diabetic? Should I be concerned?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

two vanilla ice cream profiteroles topped with chocolate sauce and slivered almonds

It is a myth that eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

There are a lot of factors that go into whether one will develop diabetes. Type I, or juvenile diabetes, occurs when the cells in the pancreas stop producing insulin. Type II diabetes generally happens as folks age, primarily in those that are overweight. It can arise in those of normal weight, but either way the reason seems to be that the body doesn't use insulin properly.

So, now to your question, should you be concerned? Yes and no. Not directly, from sugar or your sweet tooth, but from the possibility of weight gain that can certainly lead to diabetes. Likewise, weight gain is also linked to such things as drinking soda and high blood pressure. There is also evidence that sugar can affect your cholesterol profile and that high fructose corn syrup may lead to weight gain.

So, while eating more sugar is not likely to cause diabetes directly, it clearly is linked to other health problems and weight gain. I think that the key is to satisfy your sweet tooth with great quality calories. When you want something like candy, have the best quality chocolate you can buy. Choose to eat sweets you love at special times: ice cream, cookies, or cakes are OK occasionally.

Best of all, you can pretty much eat all the fruit that you want without worrying about the sugar.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet