Sugar & Health

Sugar & Diabetes

Make sense of sugar and type 2 diabetes.

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes.1

Diabetes is a condition that causes poor regulation of blood glucose.

Blood glucose is often called blood sugar but in fact glucose and sugar are not the same thing. The sugar we eat is sucrose, a compound with both fructose and glucose and found in all green plants. Glucose is found in all carbohydrates, including fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains and can also be made by our bodies.

Being overweight increases the risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet that includes excessive caloric intake from any source contributes to weight gain, according to the American Diabetes Association.2 While sugar does provide calories and can contribute to weight gain when eaten in excess of calorie needs, experts agree that “Type 2 diabetes is not caused by sugar, but by genetics and lifestyle factors.”2 A major review of studies examining risk factors for type 2 diabetes demonstrated no effects of increasing sugar intake on diabetes risk.3 However, this review as well as others have identified an association between sugar-sweetened beverages and higher risk for type 2 diabetes.3,4

For individuals with diabetes, sweets in moderation and nutritious foods with added sugars can be a part of a healthy diet, as long as the total carbohydrates fit within their daily carbohydrate goal.5


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2017.
  2. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Myths. Available at: Updated August 20, 2018.
  3. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Carbohydrates and Health. UK: The Stationery Office Limited; 2015:2.
  4. Choo VL, Viguiliouk E, Blano Mejia S, et al. Food sources of fructose-containing sugars and glycaemic control: systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled intervention studies. BMJ. 2018;363:k4644.
  5. Joslin Diabetes Center. Diabetes and Sweets: A Very Delicate Balance. Available at: Accessed December 6, 2018.
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