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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Sugar and diabetes


Sugar is a carbohydrate (carb) and is often found naturally in food.

Sugars found in fruit are known as fructose, and those found in dairy foods are called lactose. Sugar is often added by manufacturers (eg sucrose, also known as table sugar, and syrup). Sugar added to food and drink is known as ‘free sugar’.

If you have Type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed by your immune system. No amount of sugar has caused or can cause you to get Type 1 diabetes.

With Type 2 diabetes, we know sugar doesn’t directly cause it, but you are more likely to get Type 2 diabetes if you are overweight. Sugary foods and drinks contain a lot of calories and you will gain weight if you eat or drink more than your body needs. Find out more about cutting down on sugar.

Recent government guidelines have recommended we all cut our ‘free sugar’ consumption by half so that only five per cent of our energy intake comes from ‘free sugar’. ‘Free sugar’ is the sugar added to fizzy drinks, biscuits and breakfast cereals, plus those naturally occurring in fruit juices, syrups and honey.

What happens when people with diabetes eat sugar?

As we’ve explained, the sugar found in whole fruits and unsweetened milk is not a problem as these are healthy foods. But ‘free sugar’ and sugar added by manufacturers is not good for you.

All types of sugar affect your blood glucose levels, but eating too much free sugar over time can seriously affect your health and increase your risk of heart disease.

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