A large new study of middle-aged women suggests that when it comes to diabetes, sugar is not a major factor. Instead, the amount of calories consumed and a sedentary lifestyle may be more important in terms of diabetes risk, say Harvard researchers.
In the study, Harvard researchers looked at 38,480 healthy middle-aged women enrolled in the Women's Health Study, an ongoing study of female health professionals. The women, aged 45 years and older, filled out food frequency questionnaires and the researchers tallied up their total sugar intake -- including sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruit) and lactose (found in milk products).
The investigators found "no definitive influence of sugar intake on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Those women who consumed the most sugar in their diet were not more likely to develop diabetes than those who consumed lower amounts. Women with the lowest sugar intake, however, tended to consume more fat and cholesterol.
The results do not mean it's time to hit the candy counter for an all-you-can eat binge.
The findings confirm the American Diabetes Association's recommendation that people, including diabetics, need not shun sugar. Instead, the organization advises people to take a moderate approach when it comes to eating artificially sweetened food.
A small to moderate amount (of sugar) can be incorporated into a healthy, well-balanced diet without increasing the risk of diabetes, the researchers say. Perhaps more importantly, try to avoid major weight gain during adulthood, try to stay physically active and have a healthy diet.
Family history is the number one risk factor for type 2 diabetes. But even individuals at high risk can lower their chances of developing the condition by maintaining a healthy body weight, as obesity has been shown to substantially increase a person's risk.
Indeed, a rise in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in America has coincided with a sharp increase in the number of people who are overweight and obese.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.