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Sugar: Candy Or Killer? - Does Sugar Intake Trigger Type 2 Diabetes?

Updated on June 13, 2009

It seems, then, that the agreement that the home use of sugar is declining and that its industrial use is rising. The disagreement among the experts seems to be over the size of the increase and its significance.

A United States Senate Select Committee on "Sugar in Diet, Diabetes, and Heart Disease" heard from scientists from around the world who were experts in the field. Dr. Aaron M. Cohen of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem had had the opportunity to study in his homeland the changes in diseases which occur when a group of people emigrate to a new culture. He studied the flow of immigrants from Yemen and from the Western World into Jerusalem. Over a period of ten years, he tested 16,000 immigrants for diabetes. None of the 5,000 newly-arrived Yemenites he tested had diabetes, while there was a remarkably high number of cases among the settled Yemenites. A dietary study revealed that the Yemen immigrants had not consumed sucrose before coming to Israel but soon afterwards adopted a more Western diet, particularly in the use of sugar. Many of them, he found, drank large quantities of coffee, stirring in five or six spoonfuls of sugar into each cup, and moreover they ate little other food in the early part of the day.

There are many factors in the development of diabetes. One of these is age, another is heredity. Diabetes is usually an adult-onset disease and in that case is defined as Type 2. it may be that the cause of the diabetes in those Yemenites who immigrated to Israel was simply that they had become older, and perhaps if they had remained in Yemen they would have developed diabetes with the same incidence. This possibility was studied and it was found that diabetes developed uniquely in the immigrants and not in those of the same age who remained in Yemen.

The factor of heredity was also considered. Those who developed diabetes and those who did not had a common racial background, but if they had come from varying racial groups the fact that one group (consuming sucrose) had become diabetic while the other group (consuming no sucrose) had not, might reflect differences in their genetic makeup and be unrelated to the differences in their diets.

To test the theory that diabetes is more likely to result when sucrose replaces complex carbohydrates in a diet, Dr. Cohen designed an experiment using rats. He divided the rats into two separate groups, one group being fed a high starch diet, and the other group being fed an identical diet except that sugar replaced the calories found in the starch.

In the animals fed the starch diet, the tissues of the kidney and the retina of the eye remained normal. However, in the animals which were fed a high sucrose diet, these tissues showed a type of damage similar to that which is seen in the diabetic human; that is, the blood vessels were constricted and there were deformities in the tissues of the kidneys and the retina.

Cohen came to the conclusion that this experiment offered hope to potential diabetics: if from birth they consume a low sucrose diet, they may never become diabetic.

Continued In Sugar: Candy Or Killer? - Buying Into The Hype

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