Thursday, 12 June 2014


“Keep your words sweet - you may have to eat them.” - Proverb

How many times have you heard people remarking:
“Don’t eat too much sugar, you’ll get diabetes…”
I certainly have, and regrettably sometimes it is even University students that say so, and they should know better!

Diabetes mellitus is described as a disease of multifactorial cause and there are five distinct types. The most common one that has reached epidemic proportions nowadays is the so-called non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, type II (NIDDM II). It occurs in genetically predisposed people who generally have a poor diet, don't exercise much, and who are overweight. Most cases of this type of diabetes occur in middle and old age, but an alarming number of obese children are now presenting with the disease, which has given rise to a new group in the classification of the disease.

The association between sugar and diabetes is that in NIDDM II diabetes, the pancreas is not making enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps our body use glucose efficiently and hence it lowers blood glucose levels when it is secreted. As these people aren’t making enough insulin for their body, their blood sugar rises with many terrible effects on the tissues of the body. Hence eating of too much sugar can make the person who doesn’t secrete enough insulin show signs of the disease. Similarly, it is this type of person who benefits from limiting their intake of sugar and may deal with their disease by dietary means and exercise.

Sugar itself is a very useful substance in the body and all cells around the body need it and consume it, some having it as their exclusive nutrient (for example, our brain cells). If we don’t eat enough glucose, our body has a process that makes it from other nutrients (the process is called gluconeogenesis). So in the case of the diabetic, the high level of sugar in the blood is a case of too much of a good thing. The diabetic takes in lots of sugar, the body cannot use it efficiently, blood sugar rises to dangerous levels and all sorts of strife follows.

Sugars (and there many kinds) are part of our diet and an integral component of many foods. For example, fructose (or fruit sugar) is a simple sugar found in most fruits. Sucrose found in cane and beet sugar is a compound molecule of fructose joined to glucose. Lactose (milk sugar) is found in milk and dairy products and is made up of glucose and galactose. Honey contains many different types of sugars, but over 85% of sugars in it are glucose and fructose.

There are very few people who dislike sweet foods and will go out of their way to avoid eating them. Most of us (and I am one of them) have a sweet tooth or two… The important thing to remember is that we have to moderate our sugar intake (especially the refined types) and combine the simple carbohydrates of sugars with the more complex ones, as well as fibre, protein and smaller quantities of fats. Now that we have clarified that, does anybody have any good dessert recipes? :-)

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