Diabetes is a lifelong condition that affects 463 million people worldwide and just under 13% of South Africans, with this number growing year on year, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). South African Family Practice further iterates that diabetes is the second highest cause of death in South Africa, with it being the highest cause of death among women.

“Many believe that excess sugar consumption is the main cause of diabetes, however the relationship between diabetes and sugar is still a very complicated one,” explains Christine Rice, registered private practicing dietician. *Type 1 diabetes is a rare form of diabetes, which has been linked to family history and is therefore hereditary. Excess sugar consumption will not cause this type of diabetes but can worsen the symptoms. **Type 2 diabetes, which is more common, can be brought on by lifestyle choices and diet.   

Although the logical thought is that the consumption of excess sugar must cause type 2 diabetes, it is much more complex. A high-sugar diet has been linked to an increase incidence of type 2 diabetes due to the connection between high sugar intake and obesity.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition conducted a meta-analysis which suggested that there is a relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

Therefore, the link between sugar consumption and type 2 diabetes can be both direct and indirect – sugar sweetened drinks are linked directly as a cause, while high sugar-consumption which can cause obesity, one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes, being linked indirectly. Other causes of type 2 diabetes include family history, a personal history of heart disease and even depression.

“Changes to diet and lifestyle can help to manage type 2 diabetes, and even ward off the condition as well,” suggests Rice. “When making small changes to what we eat, how we live and include exercise into our daily routine, we can create a healthy environment for our bodies to thrive.”

When diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and to help prevent it, it is important to look at your life and how you are living by seeing where you can make healthy changes:

  • Healthy food choices include a regular schedule for meals and healthy snacks. Smaller portions help to keep hunger away. Food high in fibre are also great at keeping you full for longer. A well-planned meal plan can help with cravings and spikes and drops in blood sugar. Look for foods that are suitable for diabetics, such as Canderel Xylitol which is an all-natural plant-based sugar alternative that tastes, looks and crunches like sugar but offers less calories. It is a sucrose-free sugar replacer crafted from birch wood and is also found naturally in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables such as plums, strawberries and pumpkins. It is Keto friendly, kinder to your teeth and ideal for baking.
  • Regular exercise is important for losing weight and for maintaining a healthy weight, as well as regulating blood sugar levels. Find an exercise activity that suits you and that you enjoy. This will make it easier to work out, and not feel as though it is a chore.
  • Weight loss helps to control blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. As obesity is one of the causes of type 2 diabetes, keeping your weight in check is very important. Working with a dietitian can help with the weight management and with creating a sustainable meal plan.
  • Replace refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white flour and pastries with wholegrains foods and increase the intake of vegetables and foods high in dietary fibre.

“Making positive changes to your life when diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can help you to give your body a better chance of “handling” this condition. Canderel Xylitol is one such change, as every healthy change adds up to a healthier lifestyle” shares Rajnish Ohri, VP & MD Whole Earth Brands IMEA.

*Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition that causes the person’s immune system to attack the cells that produce insulin. Once these cells are damaged this affects the body’s ability to manage blood glucose. Eating excess sugar may make the symptoms associated with type 1 worse, but it does not cause type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes is rare.

**Type 2 diabetes, which is more common, occurs when a person’s pancreas stops producing enough insulin or when their body’s cells resist insulin, or both. Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas that allows blood sugar into the cells to be used for energy. With type 2 diabetes the cells don’t react as they should to insulin and become insulin resistant, therefore causing the pancreas to make more insulin to help the cells respond. The pancreas, however, can’t keep up with the production and the blood sugar levels rise causing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.