Whenever diabetes is mentioned, many are those who conclude that only people who consume large amounts of added sugar become diabetic.

But is that really the case considering there are two different types of diabetes, and each has different causes?

The two main types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1: Occurs when your immune system attacks your pancreas, destroying its ability to produce insulin.
  • Type 2: Occurs when your pancreas stops producing enough insulin when your body’s cells no longer respond to the insulin it produces or both.

While it is true that eating large amounts of added sugar may increase your risk of diabetes, sugar intake is just one of many other factors including overall diet, lifestyle and genetics — which also impact your risk.


What is diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when your body is no longer able to effectively regulate blood sugar levels.

This can happen when your pancreas stops producing enough insulin, when your cells become resistant to the insulin that is produced or both.

Insulin is the hormone required to move sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells — so both scenarios result in chronically elevated blood sugar levels.


What role does sugar play in diabetes?

According to the British Diabetic Association, sugar does not cause type 1 diabetes, nor is it caused by anything else in your lifestyle. In type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed by your immune system.

With type 2 diabetes, the answer is a little more complex. Though we know sugar doesn’t directly cause type 2 diabetes, you are more likely to get it if you are overweight. You gain weight when you take in more calories than your body needs, and sugary foods and drinks contain a lot of calories.

So you can see if too much sugar is making you put on weight, then you are increasing your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. But type 2 diabetes is complex, and sugar is unlikely to be the only reason the condition develops.


19 million Africans diabetic?

“Sugar in itself does not cause diabetes.” The Vice President of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA), Dr Frank Serebour told GhanaFact while expressing concern about the rising level of obesity in Ghana.

According to the specialist Paediatrician, “Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in Ghana” and there is the need to encourage weight management and promote regular exercise.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF), a federation made up of 168 countries, has said about 19 million adults (20-79) live with diabetes in Africa region as of 2019. This figure is estimated to increase to 47 million by 2045.

About 60% of adults living with diabetes in Africa do not know they have it and according to the International Diabetes Federation, this is the highest percentage of undiagnosed people of all IDF regions.


By Gifty Tracy Aminu