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Sugar and diabetes

Sugar and diabetes

Contrary to popular belief, there is no cause-to-effect relationship between diabetes and the consumption of carbohydrates in general and sucrose in particular.

There are two types of diabetes: insulin-dependent diabetes (type I) and non-insulin dependent diabetes (type II).  Both types are characterized by an excess of glucose in the blood(glycaemia), although they do not occur for the same reasons. Each requires a separate type of treatment.

Type I diabetes in a young people

Type I diabetes is a chronic illness that is usually diagnosed before adulthood. It is caused by the destruction of cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, the hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood.  This disease is often hereditary. The treatment aims to permanently maintain glycaemia levels within an optimal range (0.8 g/l). This is achieved through daily insulin injections.

Type II diabetes and weight

In type II diabetes, you produce too much insulin, but it does not lower your glycaemia levels. This is called insulin resistance. Very often this type of diabetes is linked to an excess of fat, mainly around the abdomen. This is called abdominal obesity. Treatments differ from person to person, but all of them involve weight loss.

Change of diet

Until recently, diabetics had to keep to an extremely strict diet: no sugar or sweet things, limited amounts of bread and starchy foods. 

There’s no food that diabetics cannot eat. As for healthy people, the proportion of carbohydrates in their diet can be up to 45 to 50% of their total energy intake.  Diabetics can eat a sugar-sweetened product at the end of the meal, on condition that they do not exceed their “allowance” of carbohydrates. 

But they must avoid eating sweetened food and drinks between meals.  Non-insulin dependent diabetics (type II) must watch their weight.  This means reducing their total calorie intake. At the same time, they must become more physically active.


A better understanding of the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates means diabetics now get better dietary advice and eat a less restricted diet. Apart from screening, which allows for earlier treatment, an appropriate diet and an increase in physical activity can significantly reduce the prevalence of type II diabetes.