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I'm sure this question is asked a lot. I asked it of two different doctors myself recently, one of them a diabetes specialist. They both said that causing too much sugar did increase the risk. Neither offered any actual evidence. The specialist gave a rather strange reason, which now escapes me.

This idea has inherent plausibility, because eating a lot of sugar could be assumed to stress the body mechanisms that keep sugar level in the blood under control. Too much stress could cause these mechanisms to break down. This is, however, not the reason the specialist gave.

A confounding factor could be that eating too much sugar might cause weight gain, which might increase the risk of diabetes for different reasons.

There are (at least) two kinds of answers that would be useful here.

  1. Actual clinical trials/studies attempting to address this question.
  2. Descriptions of medical research which suggest mechanisms by which excessive sugar consumption could increase the likelihood of diabetes.

The term "too much", of course, is ill-defined. An answer could attempt to quantify this.

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    I suppose it depends on many internal and external factors. For example diet as a whole. – AStopher Mar 31 '15 at 22:48
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    The same question has also been asked over on Skeptics SE. – Patrick Hoefler Apr 1 '15 at 10:21
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    @PatrickHoefler Yes, I see. They seem to have covered the ground quite comprehensively. – Faheem Mitha Apr 1 '15 at 10:36
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High consumption of sugar can up the risk of diabetes, but it is not the only contributing factor. There have been studies that have shown that sugar-sweetened drinks (mainly soda) have increased the probability of type 2 diabetes.1 There is a less subtle way that sugar can cause diabetes, which is by weight gain.2 Obesity has been shown to cause diabetes3 and too much sugar can cause obesity, so technically sugar can cause obesity.

In conclusion, sugar is fine in moderation (as most things are) and usually it won't cause diabetes. There are some links between the two though.


[1] Consumption of sweet beverages and type 2 diabetes incidence in European adults: results from EPIC-InterAct.

[2] Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome

[3] Why Does Obesity Causes Diabetes?

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    "too much sugar can cause obesity", can you specify, the obesity is of fat related or just fluid related? – azam May 7 '15 at 12:18
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    @servantofWiser Well, the study was done on fructose, so it mostly sugar in general, whether it is a fluid or a piece of candy – michaelpri May 7 '15 at 21:32
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Consumption of carbohydrates is necessary to sustain life and mental health. Eating or drinking carbs stresses the body both when consuming too much or too little. Today's diabetic diet do include carbohydrates.

For a little background, the pancreas serves two functional purposes. It provides the endocrine hormones that balance the sugar available in the blood stream. For the endocrine function, it produces insulin and glucagon from the Beta cells. Insulin is the catalyst for cells to pull in sugar from the blood. Glucagon tells the liver to dump glycogen to raise up blood sugar. The glucagon is dumped when the pituitary signals the adrenal glands to go into fight-or-flight mode. It boosts the available energy. Drinking simple sugars like the ones in soft drinks is an easily metabolized sugar, and it makes the pancreas work extra hard. At the same time, if the person has insulin resistance, the pancreas has to pump out even more to get the sugar from the blood into cells. Eventually the pancreas just stops functioning when it is worked too hard.

The second function of the pancreas is exocrine, and it produces enzymes to help the body digest food and absorb vitamins. One of the enzymes also aids in the digestion of carbohydrates.

So to make a long story short, yes, consuming high amounts of sugar may increase your risk of diabetes, especially type 2. However, the bigger risks factors, for diabetes and the potential of pancreatic cancer, are stress, alcohol consumption and eating red meats.

Here is a link to the American Diabetes Association answering your very question. Here is more information about how to treat your pancreas with respect. The pancreas will demand respect eventually, and working with it helps to ease many complications of disease.

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