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Can You Get Diabetes from Eating Too Much Sugar?

Milk chocolate bars. Cherry pie. Sweet tea. Like most of us, you probably have favorite sugary treats you find impossible to give up.

But if you enjoy an excessive amount of the sweet stuff, can you get diabetes from eating too much sugar?

The answer is complicated, but diets and lifestyles can lead to Type 2 diabetes. And Type 2 diabetes can affect your oral health.

So, if you want to have a sweet treat now and then, what should you know?

What Is Diabetes?

The pancreas – an essential organ in your abdomen – produces the insulin hormone that regulates glucose (i.e., blood sugar) into your cells to produce energy.

The pancreas' function (or malfunction) plays a role in the two types of diabetes that exist.

Type 1 diabetes: This is brought on by factors beyond your control, such as genetics or a virus. Type 1 diabetes crops up when the pancreas generates little to no insulin. Usually appearing in children and adolescents, this condition can also occur in adults.

Type 2 diabetes: This condition arises when the body doesn't use insulin properly, leading to insulin resistance. Even if the pancreas tries to increase insulin production, it eventually can't regulate glucose levels – leading to blood sugar spikes.

And though genetics and other factors you can't control can play a part in developing Type 2 diabetes, lifestyle choices are important factors in preventing this disease.

Medicine can help bring your glucose levels down. But you might be able to manage or even prevent Type 2 diabetes – which usually strikes adults over 40 – through your diet.

As you know, eating too much and not exercising enough can pack on the pounds. If your weight gain puts you in obesity territory, you're at a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes. This is true for children, as well as for adults.

How Does Sugar Play a Part in Developing Type 2 Diabetes?

The question remains: Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes? Actually, eating too many carbohydrates can increase blood glucose, leading to Type 2 diabetes. And sugar is a carbohydrate, as are many foods: milk, cheese, yogurt, pasta, rice, bread, fruit, potatoes, and other starchy vegetables. (Not to mention pies, cakes, doughnuts, candy bars, and potato chips.)

And how many carbs are too many? It all depends on the type of carbohydrates you're consuming.

In an article published in the journal Diabetes Care, researchers note that "nutrition therapy" helps control and prevent diabetes. This nutritional food plan works by limiting carbs, so people with diabetes don't need to worry about measuring and counting. It can also help prevent diabetes, especially in people diagnosed with prediabetes.

To make mealtime simple, the association developed the "Diabetes Plate Method" of eating. With this method, meals feature a "healthy balance of vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates" (yes, carbs) portioned on a dinner plate.

No matter what method you follow to get your carbs and overeating under control, it's best to discuss any diet plan with your doctor first.

How Does Diabetes Affect My Oral Health?

A diet high in carbohydrates feeds cavity-forming bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria also form acids that break down the enamel and other tooth structures, resulting in decay.

But did you know if you have diabetes, you're at a higher risk for gum problems, including periodontitis and other infections? High blood glucose levels influence the severity of gum disease. There is more sugar present in the saliva of a person with diabetes compared to the average healthy person.

Sugar in the saliva promotes bacteria growth, which then forms plaque (also known as biofilm). If untreated, plaque buildup can lead to the gum diseases of gingivitis and the more severe periodontitis. Also, if you have diabetes, you're less likely to resist infections, such as those causing periodontitis.

Conversely, periodontitis might make it more difficult to control blood sugar and increase the severity of diabetes.

How Can I Manage or Prevent Diabetes and Gum Disease?

Before you're caught in the loop of diabetes and gum disease, follow your doctor's and dentist's recommendations regarding your overall physical and oral health.

For diabetes, your doctor might advise medicine and major lifestyle changes – such as eating a balanced, healthy diet in normal portions and exercising more.

We noted that the American Diabetes Association developed a nutrition therapy meal plan, which includes a diet with less added sugar and less processed foods. It's better to eat fresh and lean: fruits, vegetables, plant-based protein sources, and lean meats.

Your dentist and dental hygienist might set you up with a special oral hygiene routine and a personalized schedule for gum disease checkups. You could also receive a referral to a periodontist.

Between visits to your dental professional, a good oral home care routine is essential:

  • Brush your teeth twice daily using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss at least once daily. Flossing – aka interdental cleaning – helps remove plaque brushing might miss.
  • Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash daily.

And then there's your sugar consumption. Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes? The answer is maybe, so why risk loading up on sugar and carbs that factor into tooth decay and diabetes?

Moderation in all things can translate into a healthy body, mouth, and smile to last a lifetime.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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