Sugar, sweeteners & Diabetes: What’s in your favourite drink?

It’s not easy to sacrifice some of your favourite meals and drinks, but it rewards you with a longer healthier life. This article will help you think more critically about your choices of drinks to help with preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.

What we drink is linked to Diabetes

What we drink is linked to Diabetes

We understand that it’s not easy to sacrifice some of your favourite meals and drinks, but it rewards you with a longer healthier life. This article will help you think more critically about your choices of thirst-quenching beverages.

A guide from doctors

While type 1 diabetes is not preventable, you can take steps to reduce the more common type 2 by moderating sugar intake. The daily recommended sugar intake for diabetics is 25g or less. There are 39g of total sugar (approximately 9tsp) in just one can of soda.

Soda also reduces your ability to control blood glucose, according to research completed in 2017. Switching to artificial sweeteners or diet soda with sugar alternatives doesn’t help either. Findings have produced a variety of conclusions, however there is evidence to support the damaging effects of artificial sweeteners on the human body too.

Why are artificial sweeteners so bad?

Many studies have investigated the link between artificial sweeteners and Diabetes. Most have found that sweeteners are responsible for progressive insulin resistance, and that switching from regular to diet soda had no value for Diabetics after diagnosis. Insulin resistance is central to the development of type 2 diabetes.

It occurs when cells accept an excess of sugar in the bloodstream as normal, and no longer absorb glucose effectively. Insulin, being the chemical released by your pancreas, is rendered ineffective. Without it being able to ‘unlock’ your cells for glucose to enter, your blood sugar levels continually climb.

But we’re still pelted with ads for these unhealthy drinks

While studies are meant to be objective, a number of them have concluded that there is no correlation between sweeteners or sweetened drinks, and Diabetes. These studies have been traced back. What’s ironic is that major food and beverage corporations have been found to fund studies with such conclusions. Based on these, advertising regulators have been pushed back against by corporates.

Furthermore, any findings related to pre-diabetes being attributed to the consumption of artificial sweeteners, have been intentionally swept under the rug. It seems dubious to sway research, but it does happen. This is why sometimes it’s worth your while getting a second opinion before leaping into a treatment plan. If something doesn’t feel right, keep asking questions.

High-GI versus low-GI

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in 2010. The study investigated relationships between the diet and the health of over 91 000 female nurses over eight years. The findings pointed to a directly proportional ratio between high-GI foods and type 2 Diabetes.

As you might imagine, a whole host of other factors were examined in a sample group that size. Despite these, sadly, the truth prevailed. High-GI foods which digest quickly, when consumed in excess, led directly to the cause of unmanageable blood glucose levels, more so than even unhealthy saturated fats.

The authors explained the following process through which high sugar intake could lead to diabetes:

  1. Higher blood glucose concentrations from a high load of quick-digesting carbs mean more demand for insulin.
  2. Higher demand for insulin in the long-term wears out the pancreas. This can result in glucose intolerance from the cells.
  3. High-GI diets may, therefore, directly increase insulin resistance.

As soda has an extremely high GI, it may well contribute to this process. The review also supports the suggestion that high sugar intake adds to obesity by increasing the total energy consumed. In other words, as sugary beverages add to the overall daily intake of calories, the increase in calories likely leads to an increase in weight.

Understand more about Diabetes and how to live a happy, healthy life as a Diabetic.

Leave your details below to get more lifestyle tips, updates on medical research, and other resources to help you and your family live a healthy happy life in the presence of Diabetes.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Statistics about sugary drinks & Diabetes

A case-cohort study from 2013 investigated the relationship between sugar-sweetened drinks and diabetes. Data was compared to analyse the soda consumption of more than 11 000 people with type 2 Diabetes. Comparisons were made against more than 15 000 non-Diabetics.

It was found that people who consumed just one sugar-sweetened drink daily had a higher risk of diabetes than those who drank less than one a month. Even when energy intake and body mass index (BMI) were accounted for, the high soda drinkers still had a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

The authors speculated that sugar-sweetened drinks could potentially cause type 2 diabetes but could offer no firm conclusions. Their study could not prove a direct causal link between soda and diabetes risk, just a correlation between the two. In scientific terms, that’s a major gap. For media, that’s enough of a concern.

Health risks of excessive sugar intake

Added sugar supplies no extra nutritional value to a meal. Our bodies do not need it to function. It just adds calories, and unused calories are turned into fat and extra weight. Excessive intake of added sugars can lead to obesity.

Health risks like type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure are just two of many. Sugar also has a corrosive effect on the teeth and can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Diabetics can consume sugar but should stick to the recommended daily guidelines.


MacGill, M. 2018. How soda impacts diabetes risk. Medical News Today. 18 December. Available at: [Accessed 7 August 2019].

Nordqvist, C. 2017. Added sugar: what you need to know. Medical News Today. 12 April. Available at: [Accessed 7 August 2019].

We all have questions.

Below are some of the answers to the most common questions that you need to know.

Which is worse – Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?

“Worse” is a harsh comparison. The difference between these two types of Diabetes is that Type 1 requires insulin, and it never goes away. Type 2 requires consistent effort and can be managed over your lifetime.

What is the normal HbA1C level?

It is generally accepted that you should maintain HbA1C below 8%. The following guidelines are suggested by the South African Diabetes Association:


  • 4 – 6% Non-Diabetic range. 
  • < 7% Well-controlled Diabetic 7% – 8% Acceptable Diabetic control > 8% 
  • Poor Diabetic control needs attention.

What is the main cause of Diabetes?

Diabetes (Type 1) is usually a predisposed or genetically inherited condition. Diabetes (Type 2) is caused by lifestyle choices. Gestational Diabetes can be caused by either genetics or lifestyle choices.

What are the first signs of Diabetes?

  • Excessive thirst over a prolonged period.
  • Increased frequency in the need to urinate.
  • Significant weight loss or gain.
  • You find yourself fatigued, tired, and irritable, on a regular basis.
  • Open or ruptured wounds take a long time to heal.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Tingling sensations in your hands and feet.

Can you get life insurance if you have Diabetes?

Yes. AllLife can help you get up to R10million life insurance, as either a Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetic.

Can I test myself for Diabetes?

Although you can easily test your own blood glucose levels at any time, only your doctor, nurse, or clinic team can confirm a Diabetes diagnosis. This is because a series of specific tests are required for diagnosis.

Related articles

Know your HIV status and take control of your life.

Know your HIV status and take control of your life

HIV can be a manageable disease and not a death sentence. Know your status and ensure your, as well as others, survival and peace of mind.

Why HIV education is significant and where it begins.

Why HIV education is significant and where it begins

Hiv education usually focusses on adults, however its important to educate your children. 

Immunotherapy vs HIV.

Immunotherapy vs HIV

Scientists have made significant progress with a special kind of HIV vaccine.