Let's forget science for a minute and focus on logic. If taking away one thing has been proven to make a second thing happen, and if that second thing is well known to cause a third thing, and the third thing is what you're trying to protect against by taking away the first thing, do you still think you should do it? 

In case you haven’t worked it out, the first thing is sugar, the second thing is any one of a number of known potential physiological responses to sugar restriction, and the third thing is diabetes. And you’re right, the answer is no. You shouldn’t do it, because removing sugar doesn’t cure diabetes, but you could argue that it makes it worse, or even helps to cause it.

So here are some of the possible biological reactions to avoiding sugar. Included are gluconeogenesis, cortisol secetion, free fatty acids, lipid peroxidation, and inflammation issues. There are other things (as well as opposing arguments), but together the above mentioned are enough to at least make a pretty solid case against the idea of quitting sugar to avoid getting diabetes.

Whether you like it or not, you need sugar to function, and so your system is designed to ensure that you get it at all times, to stay alive. When glycogen stores run out, valuable tissue is converted into sugar via gluconeogenesis, and there are a number of ways that this process promotes blood sugar related issues.

Unraveling the Regulation of Hepatic Gluconeogenesis; Front. Endocrinol., 24 January 2019.

During short-term fasting periods, the liver produces and releases glucose mainly through…the breakdown of glycogen to glucose. As the starvation time is prolonged, glycogen is depleted, and gluconeogenesis, that is de novo glucose synthesis from available precursors, becomes the main method of maintaining blood glucose levels. However, the abnormally increased rate of hepatic gluconeogenesis contributes to hyperglycemia of both type I and II diabetes.

When sugar isn’t made available from food, and glycogen stores are depleted, cortisol rises as part of the process of providing alternative fuel. Cortisol promotes gluconeogenesis and insulin secretion. Long term exposure to cortisol leads to both insulin resistance and inflammation. This is a stressful combination and over time, encourages many kinds of inflammatory issues.

The association of morning serum cortisol with glucose metabolism and diabetes: The Jackson Heart Study; Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 May;103:25-32.

Serum cortisol levels have been associated with type 2 diabetes (T2D)…We examined…morning serum cortisol with fasting plasma glucose (FPG), hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)…insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), β-cell function (HOMA-β), and prevalent T2D…Higher…cortisol was associated with higher FPG and lower β-cell function among participants without T2D and higher FPG and HbA1c in participants with diabetes. Among all participants, higher cortisol was associated with higher odds of T2D.

Cortisol has been demonstrated to powerfully stimulate lipolysis, and the resulting rising levels of free fatty acids also promotes insulin resistance and causes blood sugar levels to go up, eventually leading to diabetes. High fat diets are also known to be similarly problematic. A number of other stress and inflammation related substances that tend to rise when cortisol and inflammation rise, increase lipolysis. Inhibiting lipolysis has been shown to be protective.

Free fatty acids and skeletal muscle insulin resistance; Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2014;121:267-92.

Insulin resistance plays a key role in the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus…The perturbation of free fatty acid (FFA) metabolism is now accepted to be a major factor contributing to whole-body insulin resistance…exposure to FFAs and excess dietary lipid intake are strongly associated with the pathogenesis of…insulin resistance.

When free fatty acids are polyunsaturated in nature, they easily break down via lipid peroxidation, promoting systemic inflammation, insulin resistance, blood sugar dysregulation, beta cell dysfunction, and eventually diabetes.

The PUFAs and their breakdown products are a good candidate for being responsible for almost everything that is popularly blamed on sugar consumption, including the progression of serious illness. 

Diabetes and increased lipid peroxidation are associated with systemic inflammation even in well-controlled patients; J Diabetes Complications. 2016 Nov-Dec; 30(8): 1593–1599.

…our study suggests that lipid peroxidation may represent an additive effect to the metabolic imbalance associated with type 2 diabetes, increased systemic inflammation and the development of diabetes-associated complications. In this sense, dyslipidemia may have a relevant impact on systemic inflammation via altered oxidative metabolism leading to increased lipid peroxidation even in well-controlled diabetics.

The byproducts of the PUFAs also stimulate the release of the stress substances, serotonin, nitric oxide, estrogen, and bacterial endotoxin, all of which interfere with thyroid energy metabolism, promoting inflammatory issues including blood sugar dysregulation.

Alternatively, what happens when you eat sugar? Lots of good things. The sugar gets used to provide energy for proper thyroid metabolism function, and some gets stored in the form of glycogen for future needs. If very large amounts are consumed, it’s possible (although not easy when metabolism if functioning well) for any excess to be stored as fat.

Gluconeogenesis goes down, cortisol is lowered, free fatty acids are reduced, protecting against exposure to excessive amounts of fat in the blood and the breakdown products of the PUFAs, lessening stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance. 

Although the problems associated with stress, inflammation, and the byproducts of the PUFAs, can interfere with the proper use of sugar allowing blood sugar to rise, the solution to this is not quitting sugar for obvious reasons. It does probably make sense however, to take things slowly at first, as you attempt to lower stress and improve metabolic function, as has been discussed in numerous previous articles on this blog.

I’m not a doctor or health professional, and none of this is advice, but if you’re anything like me, it’s probably becoming pretty obvious to you that there doesn’t appear to be any scientifically valid and logical reason to think that quitting sugar does anything, particularly over the longer term, to protect against diabetes. In fact, it makes more sense that the opposite is true.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Nitin says:

    Why are your articles have stopped coming in the email?

    It is such a wonderful and useful information.

    In the deluge of stop sugar propaganda, this is so refreshing.

  2. Avatar Jay says:

    I’ve tried 2 days in a row to sign up for the email letter and got to the prove your not a robot and twice now it says something went wrong contact site owner. Thanks.

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