How much sugar can you eat to avoid diabetes?
One of the statements we hear from early childhood is that if you eat a lot of sugar, you can get diabetes. And is it so? And how much sugar can you eat a day to avoid illness?
There are many conflicting claims regarding sugar. The most common is that one of the causes of diabetes is the sugar we consume every day. So maybe give up sweets altogether? Or is there some sugar norm exceeding which a person risks getting sick?
Sugar is essential for the body in moderation. It activates brain activity and participates in the work of the liver; without it, the balance of minerals is disturbed, and the ability to absorb vitamins also decreases in the body. But we are talking about small doses; it is the excess sugar that brings harm.
What is the amount of sugar per day?
According to the recommendation of the World Health Organization, the amount of sugar entering the body should not exceed 5% of the total calorie content of food. With an average diet, this is about 20-30 grams per day, which is equivalent to about 4-6 teaspoons.
This norm includes not only the sugar that we add to hot drinks every day but is also present in the composition of many products: desserts, sauces, ketchup, canned vegetables, muesli, low-fat dairy products, etc. However, sugar is also found in sources of natural origin: in honey, fruits, nuts, cereals, etc. But natural products contain significantly less sugar. Unlike granulated sugar or refined sugar, where almost only carbohydrates are present, products of natural origin also contain proteins, fiber, trace elements, and other substances useful for the body.
But is 20-30 g per day a lot or a little? You can calculate: suppose that a person drinks about three servings of hot drinks a day, adding a spoonful of sugar to a cup. One tea biscuit, candy, or a small cake that fits on a fork contains at least 10 g of sugar. And the norm has already been exhausted. But what about yogurt, muesli, soda, and other products that also contain sugar? Unfortunately, everything that is beyond measure will go to the detriment. How will this affect the body?
Is there a link between sugar and diabetes?
There is no direct causal relationship. The association between blood sugar levels and the name of the disease is probably confusing. The reason for the appearance of rumors may be that in a patient with diabetes, the condition worsens with the abuse of sweets. However, only some things are so clear.
The risk of developing diabetes occurs with overweight, and high consumption of simple, easily digestible carbohydrates contributes to obesity. But if a person’s weight is normal, sugar cannot cause diabetes.
And what, in this case, can cause disease? If we are talking about type 1 diabetes, the cause is a lack of insulin, which regulates blood glucose levels. Insulin deficiency occurs when pancreatic cells are unable to synthesize it.
The disease can be caused by a malfunction of the immune system, when the immune system attacks the β-cells of the pancreas, causing them to be destroyed. As a result, the insulin level in the blood falls, and the glucose entering the blood cannot be absorbed by the body. The cause of the disease can also be a viral infection, trauma to the gland, stress, and genetic factors. Type 1 diabetes can also develop for no apparent reason but by no means due to excess sugar in food.
Type 2 diabetes is a more common form of the disease, in which insulin is produced, but the sensitivity of tissues to it is reduced. This type of disease often develops in adults, who are often overweight and lead a sedentary lifestyle. Excessive high-calorie food and the abuse of sweets lead to the fact that the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin cannot cope with the continuous flow of carbohydrates, and diabetes gradually develops.
How to find out about trouble?
If in the first type of diabetes, the disease develops rapidly; then a gradual onset characterizes the second type. A person learns about the presence of the disease by chance donating blood for analysis. But by that time, excess glucose in the blood had already “left traces” in the body, provoking the development of atherosclerosis, hypertension, coronary disease, etc.
However, if you are attentive to your health, not disregard the appearance of certain symptoms, you can easily recognize trouble. The first signs of diabetes of any type are:
- dry mouth and thirst;
- frequent urination, including at night;
- increased fatigue, drowsiness;
- dry skin and itching;
- slow wound healing;
- constant feeling of hunger.
Having found the first symptoms of diabetes, you should immediately consult a doctor. In diagnosing the disease, there are simple and accessible methods for everyone. The examination is necessary to prescribe adequate treatment. If type 1 diabetes requires insulin therapy, then with type 2 diabetes, with timely access to a doctor, 80% of patients can normalize glucose levels by correcting nutrition, physical activity, and normalizing weight.
Thus, an excess of sugar in the diet can be an impetus for developing type 2 diabetes if the excess intake of carbohydrates in the body leads to obesity. If a person is at risk for diabetes, then nutrition should be corrected in the first place.
Is it possible to replace sugar with honey in diabetes?
Containing about 20 amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, and bioactive components, honey is a unique product with healing properties. But all these “pluses” are mixed with one significant “minus” – high-calorie content. Given that excess weight can trigger the development of diabetes, the amount of honey for people at risk for diabetes should be limited. In addition, honey contains the same simplest sugars, so the replacement will not change anything.
As for patients with the confirmed disease, there is no consensus. However, in any case, there are several recommendations:
- you can eat 1-2 tablespoons of honey per day, subject to well-being control,
- do not eat honey on an empty stomach,
- use honey as an addition (to cottage cheese, porridge) and not as a separate dish,
- honey should be natural, without any additives, including sugar.
Today, dozens of honey varieties differ in the glycemic index; varieties with a lower index are suitable for people with diabetes. For example, the glycemic index of acacia honey is 32-35, linden honey is 50-55, and buckwheat honey is 50. And most importantly: it is important to know the first signs of diabetes; if even a slight ailment appears, you need to conduct a blood test. Of course, each case of the disease is individual, so it is better to coordinate the possibility of introducing honey into the diet with your doctor.
What about sweeteners?
Is it possible for a healthy person to use sweeteners, which many manufacturers qualify as a low-calorie and safe alternative to sugar? But are they so safe that a person without symptoms of diabetes can use them without restriction? All sweeteners can be divided into natural and artificial.
- The first group includes fructose, sorbitol, xylitol, etc. Some of them are many times sweeter than sugar but do not provoke the release of insulin. Natural sweeteners are safe for the body, but some can lead to indigestion. Some natural sweeteners have many times fewer calories; others are not inferior in calories to sugar; their use by a person prone to fullness is not entirely advisable.
- Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, sodium cyclamate, etc.) have an intense sweetening effect; their calorie content is negligible. However, some can increase appetite, which causes overeating and excess weight. In addition, some artificial sweeteners have been shown in studies to have adverse side effects. Among the disadvantages: are endocrine disorders, allergies, and an increased risk of cancer.
How reasonable is it for a healthy person to replace sugar with such substances without a special need? A particularly balanced approach is needed for people with certain chronic diseases. In case of disruption of the digestive system, a tendency to allergic reactions, and other deviations, deterioration of the condition is not excluded. Therefore, discussing the possibility of using sweeteners with your doctor is better.
The number of patients with diabetes mellitus is steadily increasing every year. However, official figures will certainly differ from real statistics since many have symptoms of diabetes, are overweight, have high blood pressure, and do not go to the doctor.
Of course, it is not always possible to avoid the development of the disease. But if there is an opportunity to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, why not take advantage of it? After all, adjusting the diet by reducing sugar intake is quite within the power of everyone. If it is impossible to refuse excessively high-calorie foods and desserts, physical activity can come to the rescue, no matter how trite it may sound.