Does cutting out sugar cure diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how the body processes blood sugar (glucose). With diabetes, the body either can’t produce enough insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it makes. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that allows glucose from food to enter the body’s cells, where it’s used for energy. When glucose can’t enter cells, it builds up in the bloodstream. Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause serious health problems like heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes – The body makes little or no insulin. It usually develops in children and young adults but can appear at any age. Type 1 diabetes must be treated with insulin injections.
  • Type 2 diabetes – The body doesn’t use insulin properly. It can often be managed through diet, exercise, and oral medications. Type 2 diabetes mostly affects adults, but rates among children are rising.

Many people wonder if cutting out sugar from the diet can cure diabetes. While removing sugar will not cure diabetes completely, limiting sugar intake can help manage blood sugar levels and diabetes symptoms for some people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Can Cutting Out Sugar Cure Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with type 1 diabetes do not produce enough insulin and must take insulin injections to regulate their blood sugar. There is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes.

Cutting out sugar alone cannot cure type 1 diabetes because the underlying autoimmune process still exists. However, limiting sugar intake can help manage blood sugar levels. Consuming large amounts of sugar causes blood sugar levels to spike, which can be dangerous for people with type 1 diabetes. Carefully monitoring carbohydrate and sugar intake allows people with type 1 diabetes to adjust their insulin therapy accordingly.

Here are some tips for managing sugar intake with type 1 diabetes:

  • Count carbs – Keep track of carbohydrates from sugars, starches, and fiber. Coordinate insulin doses with carb intake.
  • Choose healthy carbs – Opt for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and limit processed carbs like white bread, sweets, and sugary drinks.
  • Read labels – Look for total sugars on nutrition labels and limit added sugars.
  • Moderate portions – Be mindful of serving sizes of carb-heavy foods.
  • Add protein – Pair carbs with protein, fat or fiber to help control blood sugar spikes.

While cutting sugar alone cannot cure type 1 diabetes, being mindful of sugar and carb intake is crucial for managing this chronic condition.

Can Cutting Sugar Cure Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin and/or the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. While type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, studies show that losing weight, eating well and exercising can help manage, and sometimes even reverse, the condition by improving the body’s use of insulin.

Since sugary foods like candy, soda and desserts are high in calories and offer little nutritional value, limiting sugar intake can be an effective part of a type 2 diabetes diet and lifestyle plan. Here’s how reducing sugar intake can help manage type 2 diabetes:

  • Lowers blood sugar – Consuming less sugar decreases spikes in blood glucose levels.
  • Aids weight loss – Sugary foods add extra calories leading to excess weight, which worsens insulin resistance.
  • Reduces risk factors – Obesity and high blood sugar drive complications like heart disease. Cutting sugar helps lower these risks.
  • Improves insulin response – Less sugar intake stresses the body’s insulin production less.

Research shows that losing 5-10% of body weight and keeping it off can have a big impact on lowering blood glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes. Limiting empty calorie sugars and unhealthy fats can help with reducing body weight.

However, while sugar reduction is beneficial, completely cutting out all sugar long-term is likely not realistic or necessary for diabetes management. Moderation and nutrient-dense choices are key.

Tips for Reducing Sugar Intake

Here are some tips for cutting down on added and natural sugars:

  • Limit processed foods – Skip the cookies, candies, cakes, and sodas. Choose whole foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains most often.
  • Avoid sugary drinks – Swap out soda, juices, sweetened coffee drinks for plain water, unsweetened tea, milk, or small amounts of 100% fruit juice.
  • Sweeten smartly – Use natural sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup, fruit purees instead of refined sugar. But still limit amounts.
  • Check labels – Look for added sugars like sucrose, glucose, dextrose, maltose, honey, syrups. Aim for less than 25g per day.
  • Tame your sweet tooth – Allow small portions of treats occasionally. Savor slowly. Fresh fruit can help satisfy a sugar craving, too.

The Role of Carbohydrates in Diabetes

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate. While limiting sugar intake is important, monitoring total carb consumption is also key for managing diabetes. Excessive carbohydrates from any source – starchy foods, fruit, milk, vegetables – can affect blood sugar levels.

However, carbohydrates are still an essential part of a healthy diabetes diet. The right types of carbs provide energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The key is being mindful of portions and how different carbs impact you.

  • Grain foods – Choose mostly whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice. Limit refined grains like white rice, pasta.
  • Starchy vegetables – Eat moderate portions of potatoes, corn, peas. Prefer non-starchy veggies like broccoli.
  • Fruit – Opt for berries and melons. Eat citrus, apples, bananas occasionally in moderation.
  • Milk and yogurt – Choose unsweetened varieties. Limit milk to 1-2 cups per day.
  • Legumes – Black beans, chickpeas, lentils have carbs, but also protein and fiber.

Following a consistent meal schedule can also help manage carb and sugar intake. Work with a registered dietitian to develop a personalized diabetes eating plan that includes the right amounts and types of carbohydrate foods.

Exercise and Diabetes Management

Along with healthy eating, being physically active plays a vital role in managing diabetes. Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity, lowers blood sugar levels, and assists with reaching or maintaining a healthy body weight.

Aerobic exercise and resistance training provide the most benefits for controlling diabetes. Aiming for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, like brisk walking or gentle cycling, is recommended. Adding 2-3 strength training sessions improves insulin action even more. Workouts spaced throughout the week are best.

Checking blood sugar levels before, during and after exercising allows you to monitor response. Consuming additional carbohydrates may be needed before, during or after physical activity depending on blood glucose responses and medication use.

Exercise also boosts energy levels, mood, sleep, and the ability to manage stress – all important for overall health and diabetes control. Staying active reduces diabetes-related complications and can improve quality of life.

Effects of Sugar Substitutes on Diabetes

Sugar substitutes like aspartame, saccharin, stevia and sucralose provide sweetness without extra calories and carbohydrates. While they may seem like an appealing option for diabetes, the research on their effects and safety is mixed.

  • Blood sugar – Most sugar substitutes don’t raise blood glucose levels, with the exception of sugar alcohols like maltitol and xylitol.
  • Insulin response – Sugar substitutes do not stimulate insulin release like sucrose. An exception is tagatose which acts like fructose.
  • Weight loss – Replacing sugar with nonnutritive sweeteners hasn’t been shown to significantly aid weight loss.
  • Safety concerns – High intakes of some sugar substitutes may cause side effects like headaches or GI symptoms in sensitive individuals.
  • Preference – Some may dislike the aftertaste from artificial sweeteners or find adjusting to the different sweetness profile challenging.

Using sugar substitutes doesn’t mean you can indulge freely in other carb-heavy foods. You still must be mindful of portions of sweets, refined grains, starchy vegetables and fruit. Sugar substitutes also provide no nutrients.

While sugar substitutes may be somewhat helpful in providing sweetness without extra carbohydrates and calories, they are no substitute for an overall healthy diabetes diet and lifestyle.

The Role of Fiber

Getting enough fiber is key for managing diabetes. Fiber slows the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates helping control blood sugar spikes. Soluble fiber can also improve insulin sensitivity and lower fasting blood sugar levels.

Good sources of fiber include:

  • Vegetables – Artichokes, green peas, broccoli, spinach
  • Fruits – Avocado, berries, pears, apples
  • Grains – Oats, barley, quinoa, popcorn
  • Nuts and seeds – Almonds, pistachios, flaxseeds
  • Legumes – Kidney beans, black beans, lentils

Aim for 25-30g of fiber daily from whole foods. Read nutrition labels to look for foods high in dietary fiber. Increase fiber slowly and drink plenty of fluids to prevent gas or bloating.


Cutting sugar alone will not cure diabetes, whether it’s type 1 or type 2. However, limiting sugar intake along with monitoring total carbohydrate consumption is an important part of managing blood sugar levels and diabetes. While sugar does not need to be eliminated completely, avoiding sugary processed foods and beverages can benefit diabetes control. Paying attention to things like portion sizes, nutrition labels, and the type of carbohydrates consumed while also following an overall healthy diet and staying active are the keys to long-term diabetes health and prevention of complications. Work closely with your doctor or diabetes educator to develop the right diabetes nutrition and lifestyle plan for you.

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