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Diabetics: What You Should Know About The 4 Types of Sugar

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If you have diabetes, sugar is a serious problem. However, some forms of sugar might be more dangerous than others. Learn about the 4 types of sugar and which is the most dangerous for diabetics below.

You’ve heard that sugar is sugar, but what if that is not quite true?

There are four commonly-used kinds of sugar in the average American’s diet, and each one has a slightly different effect on the body. Find out how all of these sugars affect someone with diabetes, the healthiest sugar for your body, and how you can use this knowledge to counteract the effects of diabetes below.

The 4 Types of Commonly-Used Sugar

In today’s modern diet, there are four main types of sugars commonly used as sweeteners. Many simple carbohydrates convert to sugar in the body (usually glucose or fructose), and nearly all sweet-tasting foods contain some form of sugar (usually fructose or sucrose). Learn more about these basic sugar types below:


Glucose is actually the body’s preferred energy source. Glucose is your blood sugar and uses the enzymes glucokinase and hexokinase to boost the metabolism. Most carbohydrates from starches, grains, and vegetables convert to glucose in the blood to become energy or to be stored in the liver for later use.

In most cases, high glucose levels are what triggers high insulin production, which is why high blood glucose levels can be dangerous for diabetics, who either do not produce enough insulin or are resistant to insulin. Without a proper insulin balance, the sugar remains in the blood, which prevents it from being used as energy. This can create a variety of dangerous health problems. Some food labels call glucose dextrose, but it is basically the same form of sugar.

Sources of Glucose
  • Grains and bread
  • Vegetables
  • Starches (potatoes, rice)


This sugar is naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Of course, today, you are more likely to see this form of sugar as an added sweetener in the form of corn syrup, fruit juice sweeteners, and many other common sweeteners used today. The trouble with fructose is that the body does not use it to produce energy in the same way that it uses glucose. Fructose is metabolized in the liver and is more likely to increase fat levels in the body.

Strangely, consuming high levels of fructose does not trigger the release of insulin or leptin (which controls metabolism and a feeling of fullness). This means that a diet high in fructose can be dangerous for diabetics, leading to weight gain, insulin imbalances, and other health risks.

Sources of Fructose 


Sucrose is the type of sugar you find in table sugar or white sugar. Most sources of sucrose in the diet today come from sugar cane or sugar beets. Sucrose contains equal parts glucose and fructose. Consuming high levels of sucrose can lead to weight gain because the body uses the glucose in the sugar right away, but stores the fructose later as fat. This can lead to complications for diabetics like weight gain and increased insulin resistance.

Sources of Sucrose
  • Sugar cane
  • Sugar beets
  • Maple syrup
  • Citrus fruit
  • Added sweeteners (not from corn syrup or artificial sugars)


Lactose is another form of sugar found in milk. About 2-8 percent of the composition of milk is made up of lactose. Lactose is rarely used to sweeten foods, simply because it has reduced solubility compared with other sources of sugar. When consumed, lactose is broken into glucose and galactose, which is then converted into energy.

As humans age, we produce less of the enzyme that can break down lactose. Although about 70 percent of humans continue to produce this enzyme as they age, about 30 percent do not- which causes lactose intolerance with symptoms like bloating, gas, and discomfort.

Studies on lactose and diabetics have shown that it does not raise blood sugar levels as quickly as other forms of sugar. When compared with sucrose, glucose, and fructose, diabetics who ate lactose for breakfast lowered blood glucose levels by 32 percent in a 1985 study.

Sources of Lactose 
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Buttermilk
  • Cream

Myths About Sugar

There are many myths surrounding sugar that diabetics should be aware of. The consumption of the wrong kind of sugar can seriously interfere with your health and make your diabetes worse. Additionally, there are many sneaky sources of sugar that could be destroying your efforts to stay healthy.

Myth 1: All Carbs Have the Same Sugar

This is not quite true. Most carbs contain either glucose, fructose, or galactose. Glucose comes from starches and is used to make energy. Galactose is exclusive to milk sugar and is also converted into glucose. Fructose, on the other hand, is converted into fat if it is not used right away. This means that consuming carbs high in fructose can cause fatty liver disease as well as conditions like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Diabetics should watch their consumption of fructose carefully and look for hidden sneaky sources of this deadly sugar.

Myth 2: Fructose Is Used For Energy

The only time your body reaches for fructose as energy is when you have depleted your stores of glucose. Most people have an excess of glucose in the blood (particularly diabetics), which means that when you eat fructose, you are simply adding pure fat to the liver, which contributes to insulin resistance. So, if you think eating a candy bar for an afternoon surge of energy is a good idea- think again. Rather than giving you extra energy, all that candy bar does is increase your risk for developing dangerous side effects to diabetes.

Myth 3: Fructose Is Natural And Healthy

Fructose does come from fruit originally, but the quantities found in fruit are a lot different than what is used as a sweetener for candies and your favorite sodas.

In its natural form, fruit contains enzymes and vitamins that prevent the high spike in blood sugar and the insulin resistance that is caused by consuming large quantities of extracted fructose. Fiber also limits sugar absorption, which of course, your soda has none. This means that all of the sugar is absorbed into the body quickly, forcing your body to create high levels of insulin to counteract the damage. This is how type 2 diabetes starts, and what can make it go drastically wrong quickly.

According to the American Heart Association, the average amount of fructose consumed daily in the average diet is about 22 teaspoons. In 1990, the average amount was only 4 teaspoons.

Sugar Is a Serious Danger To Your Health

You know that sugar is bad and can lead to weight gain and diabetes, but do you know exactly how dangerous sugar is for you? The following serious health problems are connected to consuming high levels of sugar in addition to increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes or making it worse:

Heart Damage

Sugar increases your risk of developing heart disease, which has been known for a long time. However, a new study from 2013 published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that sugar can actually damage the pumping of your heart. This increases the risk of heart failure. A molecule called glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) can change the muscle proteins in the heart. This leads to heart failure. Half of all patients diagnosed with heart failure die within 5 years.

Belly Fat

Sugar triggers an increase in fat- but particularly belly fat (which is one of the most dangerous places to accumulate fat). In a 2010 study, it was found that children who have high fructose intakes (but not glucose) have mature visceral fat cells, caused by the sugar itself.  When you consume too much sugar, the leptin you produce does not work properly, and neither does insulin. This contributes to the development of diabetes, but it can actually increase your risk of cancer as well.

A study from 2013 conducted by the University Rey Juan Carlos found that intestinal sugar triggers the formation of the hormone GIP. GIP increases insulin released by the pancreas, which makes cells more susceptible to cancer formation. Patients with breast cancer and colon cancer often show signs of high sugar intake.

Liver Toxicity

Sugar may be as damaging to your liver as alcohol, according to a 2012 study published in “Nature” journal. Consuming high levels of fructose and glucose can have toxic effects on the liver- which is just as damaging to the liver as binge drinking. High consumption of sugar also leads to many of the same issues as binge drinking, including weight gain, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, malnutrition, and problems with the pancreas.

Ages the Brain

Some studies have linked sugar to increased aging in the brain. A 2009 study published in “PLOS Genetics” found that high consumption of glucose speeds aging in the cells and brain. In 2012, researchers from UCLA found that high sugar consumption leads to poor brain function and cognitive health.

What is the Healthiest Sugar for Diabetics?

If you have diabetes, it is best to avoid all forms of sugar when possible. Glucose, fructose, sucrose, and even lactose can all raise blood sugar levels which cause unhealthy blood sugar spikes. However, a study from 1985 published in the journal “Nutrition Research,” found that one sugar is less damaging to diabetics.

In the study, researchers compared the effects of various sugars on the blood sugar levels of diabetics. The study tested glucose, fructose, lactose, and sucrose. The researchers found that lactose increased blood sugar levels the least. This study suggests that lactose may be the safest form of sugar for diabetics.

What About Artificial Sugar?

Many individuals with diabetes use artificial sugars because they do not spike blood sugar. However, artificial sugar may be just as bad- and possibly worse- for individuals with diabetes as regular sugar.

A study from 1986 looked at over 80,000 women who ate artificial sugar regularly. The study found that women who ate artificial sugar were more likely to gain weight over time whether they were overweight at the start of the study or not.

In 2010, a review of several past studies published in the “Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine” found that the use of diet drinks for 8 years lead to weight gain. The use of saccharin led to an 8-year weight gain. Children who drank diet drinks over a two-year period had higher BMI scores at the end of the study. For each serving of diet drinks per day, BMI increased by .16 percent. These studies may take diabetes sufferers by surprise since most doctors recommend that diabetics consume artificial sugars and diet drinks. However, these studies barely scratch the surface of the damage that artificial sugars can have on diabetics.

Artificial Sugar Lowers Insulin Sensitivity

A 2012 study published in “PLOS One” found that exposure to aspartame over time changes blood glucose parameters which damages spatial learning and memory in animal testing. The insulin sensitivity of the mice was also severely decreased. To combat type 2 diabetes, you need to become more sensitive to insulin- not less. These mice also had faster weight gain- likely due to the increases resistance to insulin and leptin. The mice also had higher resting blood glucose levels, which is another danger to diabetics. In fact, the blood glucose levels of mice fed artificial sugar was 120.2 percent higher than the control mice.

Artificial Sugar Raises Insulin Levels

What is one reason why doctors recommend artificial sugar for diabetics? Artificial sugar is not supposed to raise blood glucose or insulin levels. However, a study published in “Diabetes Care” in 2007 found that this assumption is false.

The researchers compared the glucose and insulin levels of men with diabetes after completing rigorous exercise. The men were given 5 different menu options. 1 group was fed high-glycemic sucrose 1 group was fed low-glycemic fructose 1 group was fed aspartame 1 group was fed high-fat/low-carb foods And the last group fasted before exercise The researchers believed that offering fructose or aspartame would have reduced insulin and glucose responses.

Surprisingly enough, the authors found that the aspartame meal raised glucose and insulin levels as much as the sucrose meal.

Other Health Risks of Artificial Sugar
  • Brain tumors
  • Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Lymphoma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

How to Increase Insulin Sensitivity Naturally

The key to reversing type 2 diabetes is to encourage your body to become more sensitive to insulin production. You can do this in the following ways: Limit Sugar All sources of sugar- whether natural or not- can interfere with your insulin production and reduce sensitivity. For best results, eliminate all sources of sugar that do not come naturally. This includes any pre-sweetened foods, processed grains, and juice or smoothies.

Try A Grain-Free Diet

High levels of glucose can lead to insulin resistance. In fact, some studies have suggested that when you are resistant to insulin and leptin, the body converts carbohydrates into fructose rather than glucose, which is dangerous and can make diabetes worse. Try a grain-free diet for a few months and watch your blood glucose levels improve.

Take Probiotics

There is some evidence that a healthy gut can improve insulin sensitivity. Many people do not have the right balance of bacteria in their intestines. Supplementing with probiotics may be able to restore this balance and improve your sensitivity to insulin.


Numerous studies have shown that exercise reduces blood glucose levels. Exercise may be one of the easiest and fastest ways to reduce blood glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity.

Reduce Stress

Stress can contribute to insulin resistance, increased sugar cravings, and resistance to leptin. This combination makes it difficult to lose weight and maintain a healthy balance of glucose in the body. Try to eliminate as much stress as possible to balance the hormones in your body.

Supplement Wisely

Certain supplements have been tied to the improvement in insulin sensitivity. The following supplements may be beneficial in restoring insulin sensitivity and preventing type 2 diabetes from destroying your life:

Healthy Supplements for Diabetics 

Avoiding Sugar and Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most dangerous health problems facing Americans today. However, it is completely avoidable and, in some cases, reversible. The key to preventing and reversing diabetes all comes down to one thing- sugar. Sugar, no matter what its form, is highly detrimental to someone who is pre-diabetic or already has diabetes. Today’s modern diet is full of sugar from sources that are unnatural and dangerous. If you are at risk for diabetes or already have type 2 diabetes, it is important to avoid all sources of sugar- including artificial sugar.

Avoiding sugar and taking the steps to boost your sensitivity to insulin could help completely reverse your diabetes symptoms and enable you to live a normal if somewhat sugar deprived life.





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