June 21, 2013
Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes? For years, scientists have said, "Not exactly."
Eating too much of any food, including sugar, can cause you to gain weight; it's the resulting obesity that predisposes people to diabetes, according to the prevailing theory.
But now the results of a large epidemiological study suggest that sugar may also have a direct link to diabetes. Researchers examined data on sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries over the past decade. They found that increased sugar in a population's food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.
"It was quite a surprise," said Sanjay Basu, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. "We're not diminishing the importance of obesity, but these data suggest that there are additional factors that contribute to diabetes risk besides obesity and total calorie intake, and that sugar appears to play a prominent role."
The findings do not prove that sugar causes diabetes, Basu emphasized. But more sugar was correlated with more diabetes, and diabetes rates dropped over time when sugar availability dropped.
Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care, and Stanford Children's Health. For more information, please visit the Office of Communications website at http://mednews.stanford.edu.