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Sugar Behind the Rise of Diabetes Worldwide

Mar 7, 2013

Sugar intake linked to high diabetes prevalence, not obesity….

Differences in sugar intake and availability can influence the rate of diabetes among overall populations. A worldwide analysis was conducted in 175 countries using econometric models of repeated cross-sectional data on diabetes and nutritional components of food.

To determine whether sugar in a country’s food supply predicts subsequent spikes in diabetes rates, the researchers from Stanford University used a regression model to correlate the prevalence of diabetes from 2000 to 2010 in adults aged 20 to 79 living in 175 countries with the availability of sugar in a country’s food supply.

Researchers found that the incidences of diabetes increased in a dose-dependent manner. In countries where the rate of diabetes increased, the availability of sugar had also increased. Each extra year of living where sugary foods were widely available was linked with an increase in diabetes prevalence of 0.053% (P < .05). When sugar availability was scarce, diabetes decreased by 0.074% (P < .05).

It is important to identify risk factors for type 2 diabetes, since nearly 1 in 10 adults worldwide has the condition, and the rates are increasing. "If obesity is a primary driver of diabetes, then measures to reduce calorie consumption and increase physical activity should be prioritized," researchers write. "However, if added sugar consumption is a primary driver, then public health policies to reduce sugar consumption warrant investigation as diabetes-prevention proposals — especially for developing countries, where diabetes rates are rising dramatically, irrespective of obesity."

The study also found that every 150-calorie increase in sugar availability was associated with increased diabetes prevalence by 1.1% after testing for potential selection biases and controlling for other food types, total calories, overweight and obesity, aging, and income.

"Obesity isn’t driving the worldwide pandemic of type 2 diabetes as much as the rising consumption of sugar."

Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH (2013) The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57873. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057873