Updated 09 February 2017

'Eating too much sugar causes diabetes'

Many people believe that eating too much sugar causes diabetes.


The belief that eating too much sugar causes diabetes is one of the most common misconceptions around diabetes, and has been declared untrue by the American Diabetes Association and many other scientific bodies. There are three main types of diabetes. None of them are caused by too much sugar, but rather by the pancreas which does not work as it should.

Sugar is a natural nutrient needed by the body to produce energy and derived from different types of carbohydrates (including sugar, fruit, vegetables, grains and starches). In a healthy body the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin which helps to deliver the sugar (or glucose) to your cells, providing your body with energy. When a person develops diabetes, the pancreas stops producing enough insulin, resulting in the glucose building up in the blood instead of moving into the cells.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas cannot make insulin. It is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease, and mostly affects children and younger people (before the age of 40). Patients are required to take insulin for the rest of their lives.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, the insulin does not work properly, or both. It is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors and can happen in a person of any age. Eating a diet high in kilojoules, whether from fat or sugar, can cause you to become overweight which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A third type of diabetes, gestational diabetes, occurs during pregnancy when hormone changes prevent insulin from working properly. Women with gestational diabetes usually need to take insulin and the condition may resolve after birth of the child.



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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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