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What's Causing Explosion in Type 2 Diabetes? Sugar, Says New Study

Study is 'another brick in the wall of evidence that excess sugar consumption is a major threat to public health.'

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

(Photo: betiiita / flickr)

Sugar.  That's what's behind the increasing worldwide numbers of type 2 diabetes, according to a study published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS ONE.

The study's authors write:

Our results show that sugar availability is a significant statistical determinant of diabetes prevalence rates worldwide.

...we identified that sugar availability appears to be uniquely correlated to diabetes prevalence independent of overweight and obesity prevalence rates, unlike other food types and total consumption, and independent of other changes in economic and social change such as urbanization, aging, changes to household income, sedentary lifestyles and tobacco or alcohol use.

Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), called the study "another brick in the wall of evidence that excess sugar consumption is a major threat to public health."

Rob Lustig, one of the study’s authors and a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, “You could not enact a real-world study that would be more conclusive than this one.”

Just how much sugar is the average person in the U.S. consuming? CSPI has noted:

Americans, on average, consume between 18 and 23 teaspoons—about 300 to 400 calories worth—of added sugars per day. Teens and young adults consume half again more than the average. About one-fifth of adolescents aged 12 to 18 consume at least 25 percent of their calories from added sugars, according to the government’s 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. About 14 million people of all ages consume more than one-third of their calories in the form of added sugars.

The study found that intaking the amount of sugar in just a can of soda per day was associated with increased diabetes prevalence by 1.1%.

Bittman writes of the study:

This is as good (or bad) as it gets, the closest thing to causation and a smoking gun that we will see. (To prove “scientific” causality you’d have to completely control the diets of thousands of people for decades. It’s as technically impossible as “proving” climate change or football-related head injuries or, for that matter, tobacco-caused cancers.) And just as tobacco companies fought, ignored, lied and obfuscated in the ’60s (and, indeed, through the ’90s), the pushers of sugar will do the same now.

Read the full study here.

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