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What the Yuck: Do sugar cravings signal diabetes?
January 14th, 2011
02:10 PM ET

What the Yuck: Do sugar cravings signal diabetes?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: I've been craving sweets lately - could that mean I have diabetes?

A: Nope. Craving sugar is not one of the symptoms of diabetes, or hyperglycemia (too much blood glucose). Symptoms to look for are frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue, weight loss, and blurry vision.

If you skip meals often you may be experiencing hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. When your blood sugar starts to dip, you naturally long for a sugary snack to get it back up. But the body processes sugar fast, so the energy surge quickly wears off and you're left craving another cookie.

Another common culprit? Low levels of serotonin, the brain chemical responsible for making us feel happy. If you have chronically low levels, your sugar yen could be your body's attempt to fix the problem - studies suggest that sugar increases the absorption of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body uses to make serotonin.

The good news: You can break the cravings cycle. First, stick to three or more healthy meals a day - no skipping! Blowing off a meal can cause your blood sugar to drop and your body to seek a solution - like a hit of chocolate or pint of coffee ice cream. Instead, choose good-news fare that keeps you satisfied.

Take a test to see how well you're managing your diabetes

And when you've just gotta have a little something sweet, just go right ahead. If you are at a healthy weight and not under a doctor's instructions to limit your sugar intake, there's really no reason you can't indulge - in moderation, of course!

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Jim

    I disagree with the above, at least for Type 1. I became a type 1 diabetic in 2008 at the age of 28. Before realizing something was wrong, I was going overboard on the sugar. I was drinking gallons of juice, I even ate Krispy Kreme which I have hated my whole life! And tons of cokes. The weekend before I went into the doctor I ate a whole box of donuts because I craved them.

    The thing is, with untreated type 1, your body isn't getting any carbohydrates. So your body craves sugars not knowing you don't have insulin to absorb it. Then it ends up turning to your fat deposits for nutrition while your kidneys process 100% of the sugars you eat.

    But once on insulin, the cravings go away!

    January 14, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SR

      I was diagnosed when at 20 and I agree with Jim. I did not understand it. But I used to crave chocolates and other sweet things. I had a whole bunch of symptoms like feeling thirsty all the time, excessive urination, feeling tired constantly, losing weight, etc. So, diabetes can be a possibility. Just make sure that you go to a doctor and check it out with a Glucose Tolerance Test. Let the doctor know everything that is not normal, not just the sugar cravings..

      January 14, 2011 at 22:27 | Report abuse |
    • KDW

      Cindy no one can give themselves Type 1 diabetes it is an autoimmune disorder that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin. There is nothing this poster could have done to prevent the condition. You are thinking of Type 2 diabetes which is linked to lifestyle.

      January 15, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      Cindy, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. You do not give yourself diabetes by eating sugar. Period.

      And Type II diabetes, while it can be triggered by weight gain, is ultimately a genetic disorder.

      For some reason, people want to judge diabetics as people that got what they deserved for neglecting their bodies. Some people develop Type II diabetes no matter what physical shape they are in, and even when the onset is triggered by weight gain, it only takes about 15lbs. How many adults gain 15lbs in their 30's or 40's?

      January 16, 2011 at 01:15 | Report abuse |
    • Maria

      How was it determined that you had Type 1 diabetes? You were 28, and Type 1 is juvenile diabetes because your pancreas cannot produce insulin and it is commonly discovered in the juvenile years. Sorry, but it sounds like you ate your way to Type 2 diabetes, which means you need to take insulin shots. And yes, you CAN eat too much sugar and put too much stress on your pancreas, causing it to 'shut down' and essentially 'give yourself' Type 2 diabetes.

      January 16, 2011 at 01:41 | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Maria- There are 2 antibodies that are signals for Type 1 diabetes- which basically prove the immune system is systematically killing off insulin cells. I tested for GAD. Type 1 can occur at any age. It generally occurs at a young age, I agree. And I was very lucky to have been delayed. However, based on the GAD antibody, I am definitely Type 1. And I was 183 lbs when diagnosed, at 5"11. So no, I did not give myself Type 1. Please perform some research.

      Oh and Cindy...there are special places in the afterlife for people like you. As I mentioned in my post, I hate donuts, and never ate them beforehand.

      January 16, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      To everyone else who has performed research or gained understanding prior to posting, I truly thank you and appreciate your support! The doctor's comment to me that day was "at least it's not cancer." When I guess places this disease one rung below cancer. I have always been health conscious and continue to be so now that it is even more important. But knowing there are some people out there that truly care and do not condemn makes this fight much easier!

      Regardless of the type, diabetes is a tough fight and takes support. So to all diabetics...keep it up! WIth the advancement of xenotransplantation and insulin cell regeneration, there are so many hopes out there! Let's keep up the fight so that when the cure comes in whatever form, we still have our full health to get back!!!!

      January 16, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • WW

      Cindy and Maria– I hope you are just forum trolls because your level of ignorance is astounding. You obviously have no understanding of the medical foundations of diabetes. I am a type 1 diabetic ( diagnosed at age 30) and I have a PhD in biochemistry. Jim is 100% correct without question. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the destruction of islet cells in the pancreas by an autoimmune response, possibly triggered by a virus or other unknown environmental factors. There is a simple blood test to confirm this. In addition, they can test for the C-peptide that is basically on a 1:1 ratio with insulin. Type 1 have very little C- peptide in the blood where type 2 will have high levels. Either way this has absolutely nothing to do with eating sugar! I weighed 150 lbs when I was diagnosed and yes Jim I was always hungry for about 2 weeks pre-diagnosis ( I actually diagnosed myself with a glucometer before going to the doctor). Being a type 1 requires constant attention to diet, exercise and insulin injections ( though I'm now on a pump). We don't need the uneducated underlings telling us what we've done wrong to get this disease– because it is all in our genes and not caused by behavior.

      January 17, 2011 at 00:20 | Report abuse |
    • islandboy808

      Wow did not know that WW. I have a friend who got diagnosed three years ago with diabetes at age 24. He had signs of both type one and type two diabetes. I am just wondering how he had signs of both? I never really wanted to ask him because I don't want to strike an emotional nerve.

      January 17, 2011 at 22:43 | Report abuse |
    • las730

      I don't agree, just must be a symptom for some people. I pretty much a sugar binger my entire life. I am not diabetic.

      February 16, 2011 at 09:39 | Report abuse |
  2. Burbank

    Sugar cravings can also happen when giving up an addiction, any kind of addiction. It might have to do with the Seritonin mentioned above?

    January 14, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lynne

      Seriously, you guys don't understand (ESPECIALLY YOU CINDY)!

      Type 1 Diabetes is a condition whereby the body attacks the pancreas and destroys it's ability to make insulin. It has NOTHING to do with lifestyle. Type 2 on the other hand, can be related to lifestyle, and heredity. The high sugars can also damage the pancreas and wear it out, so it can't function properly.

      Please don't judge people with Diabetes (no matter which type) in fact... don't judge people period. Just try to support them and encourage them to do what they need to do to get and STAY healthy.

      January 15, 2011 at 19:27 | Report abuse |
  3. annie

    I became a Type l about 30 yrs. ago and being on a trip all I wanted was Slurpies and hamburgers and the good part was, I lost 12lbs in a week. I had never before craved that type of food and never after starting insulin. Even if there was an instant cure, I don't think I could go back to eating junk.

    January 14, 2011 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. daniel

    No mention is made about sleep disruption/deprivation either. One of the effects of that is ghrelin/leptin (hunger/satiety) hormones are thrown out of balance. Thus sugar/carbohydrate cravings occur.

    January 14, 2011 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FifthGeneration

      This is an issue we dealt with, when my spouse was diagnosed as a type-2. In examining the situation, my spouse discovered that about 30% of those taking Metformin (standard, for many diabetics) suffer from a Vitamin-B deficiency. This can have an impact on one's sleep. It did not happen over-night, but by adding a B-Complex to the medication regimine in the evening, my spouse has enjoyed sleep that is both deeper and longer in duration.

      Check with your physician, of course, before beginning the use of any medication or supplement.

      January 17, 2011 at 20:18 | Report abuse |
  5. twinsand2more

    Sugar cravings signal a need for probiotics and and overgrowth of yeast in your body......

    January 14, 2011 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dan

      What? Explain.

      January 16, 2011 at 17:31 | Report abuse |
  6. teebee

    My diabetic father craved sugary snacks. He believed he craved them because he could not have them.

    January 14, 2011 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. taurus

    I have hypoglycemia (from birth) and I don't crave sugary foods.

    January 15, 2011 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Erin

      because you had it from birth and that is hypoglycemia not hyper, I think most of us are talking about hyper wich puts you as a diabetic.

      January 17, 2011 at 07:42 | Report abuse |
  8. MAWMAWS

    In my case this is wrong. I have been diabetic for 12 years and the more sugar I eat the more I crave. I can never satisfy the urge to eat sweets so I just have to avoid them altogether – or give in to a binge!

    January 15, 2011 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • esmiranda

      Ditto.

      January 15, 2011 at 13:14 | Report abuse |
  9. Cgon ny

    Im confused,what am i?iget three out of 4 systoms : urination,blurry vision&fatiquenot to mention my hole body starts to shake.as soon as i boost my body w/sugar,im fine again so which one could it be?..

    January 15, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jbird

      That is hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). You need to change your diet removing all simple carbohydrates, starches, alcohol and sugars from your diet. If you become shaky get some nuts to snack on.

      January 15, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse |
    • jbird

      You probably have metabolic syndrome(pre-diabetes), but this is reversible with a good diet and natural supplements. Diabetes is reversible and that is a fact. People will dispute and discount this claim, but this is fact. Big pharma and the medical schools intentionally condemn this truth because it is not profitable to cure a so called "disease".

      Do your research on this subject. Also, check into the origin of the study like who is behind it, where they get donations or funding for the particular study or in general. If you follow the money trail you can find these conflicts of interest that in effect have influence on the outcome of a particular study.

      January 15, 2011 at 10:44 | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      Jbird is right, avoid sugar and starch. I think you’re insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is a precursor for the main part of diseases of civilization like obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. This video explains how insulin resistance comes into existence: http://www.cutthecarb.com/sugar-and-starch-make-insulin-resistant/
      Hope this can help you further.

      January 15, 2011 at 11:06 | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      There's some good advice here – but you don't have to avoid ALL starches and simple carbohydrates. Just limit them. The way to do that is to keep track of how many you are taking in.

      You'll never know exactly what is going on with your blood sugar without testing yourself.

      jbird raises a good point about checking the source of information. When it comes to nutrition and health information on the internet, you can always find to completely opposite points of view on just about any subject. Both scientific research and personal experience have their place, but keep in mind that anything that doesn't use a scientific methodology is relying on the subjective and anecdotal.

      January 16, 2011 at 01:28 | Report abuse |
    • Galina12

      It is better to avoid ALL starches and sugar, not just "watch what you are eating". Whole grains most of the time are bed for somebody with impaired sugar regulation.

      January 16, 2011 at 22:50 | Report abuse |
  10. Person

    MARIA (& CIndy who is just clueless)...Type 1 Diabetes is not a juvenile disease – while it is commonly developed when you are young it is also possible to get as old as 30 or 40 years, especially in men. You don't "GIVE" yourself type 1 diabetes. So please do not accuse the other posters of "eating themselves" to diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is not easily to live with, especially when it is developed later in life and you have to adjust the way you eat and live. Don't be ignorant and insensitive at the same time.

    January 16, 2011 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Soleada

    My dad is Type 2 diabetic – caused by his 2nd stroke. It went unchecked for months & my mom was ready to shoot him – he had horrible mood swings.. He's got his sugar under control for the most part.. Wont give up his frozen snacks, but he -has- switched to sugar-free candy & my mom re-worked her fudge recipe so that there's no sugar or marshmallow cream in it.

    January 16, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jared

    Scary article to read right after finishing a bag of smarties for breakfast. I go CRAZY when it comes to sugar. Here's to hoping I don't have type 2 diabetes...

    January 16, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • type 2 for 28 years

      eating sugar does NOT cause you to develop type 2 diabetes either! at times it is just as hard to keep under control as type 1.

      January 16, 2011 at 21:18 | Report abuse |
    • Galina12

      It does, what else? Eating excessive sugar and starches leads to ruined insulin sensitivity, overworking of B-cells in pancreas and eventually Diabetes 2 (after prediabetes). Go and check your fasting sugar, and don't believe to the BS that more than 90 is normal. It is not. If you are hungry after 2 hours after your meal, you didn't eat the right meal as well.

      January 16, 2011 at 22:57 | Report abuse |
  13. Alexis

    I believe that sugar can impact type two diabetes. Things like sugar-free candies can be good treats for people with Type-2 Diabetes.

    Food Guides are definitely important for a Type-2 Diabetic. I learned about these from a great site, yourcity.md. just type in your city when you reach the site (mine is Cincinnati) and then search diabetes in the One-Click Relief Center. When i searched diabetes, i found a great article.

    http://www.cincinnati.md/kbviewer.aspx?query=diabetes&s=1&hwid=aa16467

    yourcity.md One Click Relief Center is only worth wild search engine on the Internet that gives you everything you need locally in absolutely One-Click! This thing is going to change the Internet and kick Googles butt! Go to any city .MD site which is replacing .com for health care searches and try it. Find the list of over 500 cities at http://www.MyCity.MD or type in your zip at http://www.YourCity.MD then bookmark the page and tell all your friends.

    January 16, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Galina12

      It would be better to read the Dr.Bernstein book "The diabetes Cure". It is available on line for free. He healed himself and now, I believe, is older then 75

      January 16, 2011 at 23:01 | Report abuse |
  14. LC in New England

    I think one reason people crave sugary foods is because they TASTE GOOD. I always, always want something
    sweet after dinner. If there was nothing sweet to eat, I would not be happy. Sometimes I've wanted a candy
    bar or whatever so bad, I'll buy it in a store, and the minute I get in the car, I'll tear it open and feel like some
    sort of addict. Never wanted to go the route of making myself throw up, so have not been bulimic. I'm a healthy weight though (most people say I'm thin or "very thin") and have never been told I am pre-diabetic or the like, so I guess it's all good.

    January 16, 2011 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. IsletCells

    Type I used to be referred to as juvenile onset due to the fact that diagnosis or onset ocurred mostly to children/teens. This term is no longer used professionally. And yes, it wouldn't matter how much you ate, your body can't utilize the sugar. DKA is one of my favorite kind of patients to care for in the ICU. IV insulin, hydration, K runs, correction of anion gap...Sooo interesting!

    January 16, 2011 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Tammy

    Free yourself from stretch marks, scars or wrinkles comfortably at home http://www.medicalcrystals.com

    January 17, 2011 at 02:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Erin

    Cindy – YOU CAN'T GIVE YOURSELF TYPE 1 DIABETES!!! IT'S A METABOLIC DISORDER, NO ONE CAN EAT TOO MUCH SUGAR AND WIND UP WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES!

    Comments like this make me wish everyone had to be educated on diabetes in general and then the difference between type 1 and 2! I wish they weren't even called type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes!

    January 17, 2011 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wilford Brimley

      Craving sugar can be a sign of having the diabeetus. I know all too well.

      September 14, 2012 at 19:49 | Report abuse |
  18. taurus

    I wrote hypoglycemia .

    January 17, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. taurus

    and it was a reference to the article sayin when your blood sugar gets low that you'd long for a sugary snack.

    January 17, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. T1D Mom

    As a mother of a type 1 diabetic child(diagnosed at the age of 5, 4 years ago), there is nothing that makes me angrier than someone that is uneducated about the disease to offer advice and state untrue facts. No one in my family has diabetes, my child did not like candy (of course until he was diagnosed and shouldn't) and he is not fat. Just because most(not all) of the population that has diabetes is type 2 and overweight doesn't mean that's the same story for the rest of the diabetics. My child fights everyday to be just like everyone else in his class, but the insulin pump in his stomach that has to be replaced every 3 days that is followed by screaming and crying doesn't allow it. This is a very dangerous disease that people are dying from. It is a constant battle every hour of every day to keep his sugar somewhat normal. Insulin is not a cure...it's our life support. Loosing weight, eating less sweets and exercising are not going to cure Type 1 diabetics!

    January 17, 2011 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      Keep up your fight! I have no idea how hard this is to manage as a child, having acquired it at 28, so I have no right to complain about how hard this is!!! However, look at all the 60-70 year olds today who were diagnosed when children! It's amazing considering they didn't have glucometers until the '80s (I think...) and they only had basic bolus insulin. Just think... with the advent of pumps and basal insulins...the artificial pancreas...and islet cell transplanation...your son or daughter will thrive, I'm sure of it! You are a hero!

      January 17, 2011 at 22:47 | Report abuse |
    • T1D Mom

      Jim, Thanks so much for your encouraging words! That is definitely what keeps me going. My boss of 15 years is also a T1D. He was diagnosed at 22 years old and is currently 67 and in great health. Technology has come a LONG way....I can not even imagine how difficult it was then. Seeing him as healthy as he is today and knowing what all he has been through gives me hope that my son will live a long healthy life. I'm no hero, just a loving mom that wants a bright and healthy future for her son. Again, I thank you and wish you much healthiness on your journey as well.

      January 19, 2011 at 15:23 | Report abuse |
  21. cindychicago

    Finally safe way to abrade stretch marks at home http://www.medicalcrystals.com

    January 21, 2011 at 04:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. BadPatient

    People with yeast infections complain that they crave carbs, but it's like feeding the monster. Yeast infections will keep your blood sugar too high. Or more accurately...it won't go below a certain number (around 128ish for me) no matter how much you exercise or watch what you eat. it gets stuck there. That's a sure sign for me that i have to chase it down (not easy because it evidently isn't in doctors training) and get rid of it. Then i can control blood sugar again. Not a chance in H### that i will be able to control blood sugar with a yeast infection though.

    February 2, 2011 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sasha

    Wow, the food police is out in force today.

    Considering I was diagnosed type 1 at 27 and gave overwhelming positive on GAD antibodies at 21 a think a little info is needed for people:

    While traditionally Type 2 diabetes is the one diagnosed later in life, most type IIs are diagnosed in the 40s. People diagnosed in their 20s or 30s belong to a rare breed, also known as type 1.5 or LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes of adults). Some people just called it late juvenile or delayed onset Type I. And when your blood sugar drops? You'll wipe out your fridge and pantry in an adrenaline induced frenzy just so your brain can survive. Downside of insulin. Not a bad downside when you consider the benefits.

    Type I is not a choice. We do not "eat ourselves" into it. Our bodies attack themselves. And I don't wish this one my worse enemies. Any one of you critics would not survive one day in my world. The one were you mentally carb count your meals, adjust your insulin, check constantly that you're not too high or too low, that you don't pass out while driving or seize after a small walk. And god forbid you get sick, a fever will wreck you and send you to the ER. So, dear critics: pat your pancreas in the back for a job well done. Some of us wish we could.

    Type 2 is strongly genetic. While you may become insensitive by being overweight for a long time, that can be resolved by weight loss for some people, dependent on their maintaining their diet FOREVER. Others? No matter what they do, how much they exercise, how little they eat or skinny they are, they will always be resistant to insulin. So just because you don't understand the trials of people with diabetes, or the challenges they face, you may want to consider ASKING them, instead of pulling that lovely shroud of self-importance around you.

    Jim and WW and the other diabetics – =)

    February 7, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Allyson

    I disagree with all of u, it depends on the person

    March 28, 2011 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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