Do We Eat Too Much Sugar?

How much sugar can we eat and still be healthy?

I totally avoided sugar for my first 60+ years after diagnosis. The one thing my doctors stressed during my early years was to avoid sugar. Then I joined an online diabetes support group in 2006, and things changed. Other people with diabetes were posting about eating sugar and other things I had been avoiding. So I began using candy instead of glucose tabs when I had low blood sugar. I also experimented by eating small amounts of candy or ice cream before exercising. There was not a bad spike, because of the exercise. Working out at a gym or walking at a brisk pace for an hour permitted me to have ice cream with 30 carbs without a bolus, before the exercise began. All those years I could have been enjoying these treats, but thought they would cause me terrible problems. My control is still stable, and my A1c has consistently been in the 5.5-6.4 range, so I cannot see that the extra treats are doing me any harm. I do not plan stopping my routine as long as I eat the sugar in the appropriate amounts, and at appropriate times.

The following article suggests that:"Added sugar should be less than 25% of total calories according to the Institute of Medicine, but less than 10% of total calories according to the World Health Organization. The American Heart Association has even stricter recommendations: less than 100 calories a day (about 5% of total daily calories) for women and 150 calories a day (about 7.5% of total daily calories) for men."

I think that the "no sugar" guidelines from decades ago came because since sugar is such concentrated carbs, and there was no fast-acting insulin to intercept it, there was no option to stay in decent control while eating it. Now with today's "fast acting" insulins, maintaining an A1C below 6 is still possible while eating a reasonable amount of carbs and sugar. Plus, I agree, I use lows as an excuse to have some freebie sweet treats or to carb-up before exercise.

I should preface my post by saying that I haven't eaten sugar at all for 19 years now, but my primary reason is my eating disorder. Having said that...

I think we need to separate the questions about if sugar is a good thing for diabetics from if sugar is a good thing for anyone.

So the "for anyone part": Refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are very unnatural foods that have become a huge part of the American diet (I know it's also true in other countries, but we may be the worst!). They are put in so many different foods that aren't even what you would think of as "sweets". Our over-consumption of sugar, along with our general over-consumption of carbs (and over-consumption of food period) has led to an epidemic of obesity and other medical problems. Studies have proven the connection between sugar and hyperactivity in children. Ever see a child in the store that seems out of control? Look in their mom's shopping carriage). Studies have also shown that sugar (and to a lesser extent carbs in general) is addictive in all the senses of that word: physiologically, emotionally and psychologically. It is more addictive to some people than others. I don't know the number of pounds of sugar Americans consume a year - is it around 50?. It is excessive with numerous negative consequences. Refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup serve no nutritional purpose. Many foods such as fruit will be perceived as quite sweet when the palate is desensitized to this onslought of sugar. There are also more natural sweetening agents.

For diabetics? I agree, Richard, that in the time of your diagnosis there was very little understanding or knowledge about carbs and diabetics and so doctors just issued the blanket statement that "you can never eat sugar again"(saying nothing about other carbs) which of course has psychological effects especially for children. Despite my statements above and my own bias, I don't believe that sugar or carbs in general are "inheritently evil" or "should never be eaten again". I do believe:
1. Some of us are more sensitive to sugar and carbs, and subject to varying degrees of addiction and find it difficult to eat them in moderation - for those people abstinence might prove easier, it sure has for me.
2. Sugar and high amounts of carbs are difficult to bolus for accurately and can lead to roller coasting which is not good.
3. Some people successfully use them to treat lows as Denise mentions, but for many people, this leads to over-treating (having the treat they usually deny themselves and experiencing a hypo-symptom of severe hunger). More roller coastering.
4. What I said above about sugar and carbs in excess for everyone of course applies to us as well. If one wants to limit ones carbs even to a moderate degree, why fill up on empty carbs with no nutritional value?

:::stepping off her soapbox::::::

I think if you're managing your bg ok it is ok to eat candy, ice cream etc. sometimes and I think we need to recognize that a potato, some rice, a piece of bread, a glass of cow's milk etc. is also sugar and does exactly the same thing to our bg, or at least to mine, as does "sugar". I try to limit the amount of carbs per meal so it is reasonable enough not to cause problems but I tend to fluctuate a lot and sometimes I need more carbs than expected with or without exercise. I think if you can get most of your carbs/sugar from veggies/berries that is better, it seems to be better for me anyway most of the time. I do use candy for lows, juice/glucose drinks if they're bad. I feel the glucose tabs/drinks taste horrible though and I feel like I'm drinking chemicals. Lately, smarties are my fav for lows, they work fast and they are pure glucose anyway I think.

I forgot to say that I do feel that in the US, and probably in other countries people do eat way too much sugar. I think that has been documented.. and sugar and salt is dumped into nearly every food here, such as yogurt, tons of it, which is why I make a lot of my own foods mostly.

And I'm not talking about bread etc. here, just plain sugar, if you add in all the other sugar they eat naturally in foods, it is way too much imo.

When first diagnosed I basically totally avoided sugar. Then after learning that it was actually carbs that raised my blood sugars I drastically restricted carbs. It was a huge shock for me to realize that actually a gram of carbs from simple starches like refined white flour actually raise my blood sugar much more than sugar. It took me some years to relax about sugar, but I introduced limited amounts of sugar back in my diet. I'll eat small amounts of dark chocolate and I add sugar to my cooking, all in very modest quantities. There are things in cooking where sugar actually makes a difference, such as in browning foods.

Nice comprehensive response. I agree with everything and add that drastically reducing the carbs in my diet (I limit to about 50grams/day) has drastically reduced craving for carb heavy food.

Sometimes I think positively about a giant hot pancake soaked with butter and slathered with pure maple syrup (easily 200+ carbs!) but I can easily stop short of acting on that thought when I consider how I'd feel for hours afterward!