Availability of sugar influences a country's diabetes rates

When health experts talk about the fight against diabetes, the bad guy is usually obesity.

But new research suggests that the availability of sugar can significantly influence the prevalence of diabetes in any particular country.

Sweet statistics

Figures published in the journal PLOS ONE this week reveal that type 2 diabetes is rampant in the U.S. not just because of obesity rates, but also because of the availability of sugary drinks, snacks and packaged foods laden with high-fructose corn syrup.

A study of 175 countries found that a daily 150-calorie increase in sugar - equal to a few pieces of candy or a can of soda - raises type 2 diabetes rates by 1.1 percent. And according to the data, each man, woman and child on the planet has had 62 additional sugar calories made available to him or her daily in the last half-century.

"[Sugar] is fueling the global epidemic of diabetes," said Dr. Walter Willett, a nutritionist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Sugar calories vs. good calories

Based on the new study, Dr. Robert Lustig - study author and pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF - says companies that manufacture sugar-sweetened drinks can't use the argument that excess calories are calories, regardless of where they come from.

The research found that countries with rising diabetes rates also saw an increase in the availability of sugar. Even in countries where calorie intake and obesity rates were low, if sugar consumption was high, so were diabetes rates.

Other studies on the subject have found that a daily soda can increase a person's risk for developing diabetes by 15 to 25 percent.

"This is as good as medicine gets in terms of proving causation," said Lustig.

Source: LA Times

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