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Dietary changes that may be helpful: Whether eating carbohydrates can cause or worsen type 2 diabetes is a complex issue. Although eating carbohydrates increases the need for insulin to keep blood sugar normal, diets high in total carbohydrates do not necessarily increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. (Colditz GA, 1992) However, researchers have found that diets very high in sugar may worsen glucose tolerance in non-diabetic animals and humans, though the amounts of sugar used in these studies in proportion to other foods are much larger than is typically found in human diets.

Years ago, one researcher reported an increase in diabetes among Yemenite Jews who had migrated from a region where no sugar was eaten to one in which they ate a diet including sugar. (Cohen AM et al, 1961)  However, other factors, such as weight gain, may explain the increased risk that occurred in this group. (Cohen AM, Fidel J, 1979) Other studies have found no independent relationship between sugar intake and the development of glucose intolerance. (Feskens EJ, 991)

Eating carbohydrate-containing foods, whether high in sugar or high in starch (such as bread, potatoes, cold breakfast cereals, and rice), temporarily raises blood sugar and insulin levels. The blood sugar-raising effect of a food called its “glycemic index,” depends on how rapidly its carbohydrate is absorbed. Many starchy foods have a glycemic index similar to sucrose (table sugar). (Wolever TMS, Brand Miller J. 1995) People eating large amounts of foods with high glycemic indices (such as those mentioned above); have been reported to be at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, eating a diet high in carbohydrate-rich foods with low glycemic indices is associated with a low risk of type 2 diabetes. Due mostly to the health-promoting effects of soluble fiber found in beans, peas, fruit, and oats, these foods have low glycemic indices despite their high carbohydrate content.

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