Sugar binge = Diabetes?
March 16, 2007 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Just much binge sugar consumption would it take to cause diabetes?

I know next to nothing about diabetes. I did some research on the internet to try and figure this out but I've come up with absolutely nothing.

The reason I ask is when I was younger, my mother always used to tell me that if I ate a lot of cookie dough at once, etc, that it could cause diabetes.

I guess my question is, how much cookie dough would it take to cause someone to become diabetic, assuming that they ate it all in one sitting? Practical knowledge tells me it can't, but what does research say?
posted by mr.dan to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think your Mom told you a wives tale.
posted by lee at 12:03 AM on March 17, 2007

Best answer: That's not how it works.

There are two kinds of diabetes, and they really aren't related. Type 1 is an autoimmune disorder; the immune system becomes sensitized to an antigen found on the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and kills some or all of them off.

Type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes) is thought to be caused by a change in the insulin receptors, making them so that they respond less vigorously to insulin. But it's something that takes years, even decades, to develop.

Type 2 diabetes is probably strongly influenced by genes; it is much more common in certain ethnic groups, such as Polynesians, and the reason is that reduced response to insulin tends to make you lay on more fat, which can be a survival trait in areas where the food supply is less reliable (e.g. on a relatively small island).

Neither kind of diabetes is caused by a single episode of pigging out.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:06 AM on March 17, 2007

I've been tirelessly researching this subject for years, up to and including last night. If you could get diabetes from cookie dough, I'd have it a hundred times over. You can't.
posted by bink at 6:41 AM on March 17, 2007

Seconding bink. I actually prefer the dough over the actual baked cookies. YUM!
posted by Mach5 at 7:16 AM on March 17, 2007

You can, however, get salmonella if the eggs are uncooked (this applies to homemade dough - store-bought stuff is pasteurized to kill the bacteria)

This little fact has never stopped me from enjoying homemade egg nog or cookie dough, though. YMMV.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:45 AM on March 17, 2007

One of the tests for whether or not you have diabetes is a "glucose challenge" -- where you eat like the equal of 10 candy bars or something at once. If you're not diabetic, you're insulin even handles this load and your numbers are normal after 2-3 hours. If you are diabetic, you're blood is syrup.
posted by skepticallypleased at 8:49 AM on March 17, 2007

A glucose challenge uses much less sugar than that in 10 candy bars. There is a 75 gram and a 100 gram challenge - the amount in about 2 and 2.5 cans of pop, respectively. And it's usually actually dextrose.
posted by peep at 9:15 AM on March 17, 2007

There's a 50, too, but I think it's only used in pregnancy.
posted by peep at 9:16 AM on March 17, 2007

My mom used to tell us the same type of thing when we were kids....if she saw us pouring what she thought was too much syrup on our pancakes, she'd say that we were going to get diabetes.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:46 AM on March 17, 2007

Steven C. Den Beste answered the question so well, but I can't help but add some random info...

Diabetes as the general public knows it is called as "diabetes mellitus" in medicine. As you can check out on the Wikipedia page, the word diabetes actually refers to the excessive urine output that is often a symptom in diabetes mellitus. The mellitus refers to, well, the sweetness of the urine (as the glucose in your body's blood basically overflows into your pee). There are other conditions labeled "diabetes" in medicine, maybe most notably diabetes insipidus, where the insipidus refers to the non-sweetness of the urine. (Bonus, possibly NSFW: check out the health issues on the Wikipedia page for urophagia.)

Even within the diabetes mellitus category, there are actually subtle subsets. Whoever named diabetes mellitus type 1.5 had a sense of humor as far as I'm concerned.

IANAD yet, but a lecturer at my school stated that merely having a diet high in sugars/carbs has not been shown to be a independent risk factor for developing any type of diabetes or heart disease (whereas, say, obesity is a huge risk factor for both). I can't find a reference on this, though. Of course, once you get diabetes mellitus, lots of carbs is a Bad Idea.
posted by sappidus at 10:06 AM on March 17, 2007

So I looked a little harder, and there is evidence, still controversial, about a link between high sugar diets and diabetes mellitus type 2.

Example from an article: "Although epidemiological investigations support the hypothesis for a potential risk effect of high glycemic index and low fiber content diets for diabetes, the results are controversial and the benefit may be related to the magnesium content of the structure of the grains, suggesting the relevance of taking into account the food sources instead of nutrients on investigations of diet and risk of chronic diseases."

Anyway, I didn't mean to suggest that eatin' cookie dough all the time is A-OK!!!, just to say that obesity is the more proven issue than carbs. But there are better and worse forms of carbohydrates too -- even without explicit research, I think it's safe to say that cookie dough isn't exactly the best kind.

viz (from another article): "Among environmental factors, dietary habits are of central importance in the prevention and treatment of [type 2 diabetes]. However, there is currently no firm consensus on the most appropriate dietary recommendations. General recommendations include decreasing obesity, increasing physical activity, and consuming an anti-atherogenic diet, and have traditionally focused on low total fat intake. A major problem with the focus on low fat is that high-carbohydrate diets can contribute to increasing triglyceride and decreasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) concentrations. Low-carbohydrate diets have been popular in recent years. However, such diets are typically higher in saturated fat and lower in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains than national dietary recommendations."

The whole issue is pretty complex, and there are a lot of articles floating out there arguing about just what effect carbs have. I should not have been so flip in implying that sugars can't be a risk factor for diabetes, but in my defense, that the controversy continues to rage shows that my actual phrasing ("has not been shown to be") is probably still OK.
posted by sappidus at 10:25 AM on March 17, 2007

You can't get diabetes from a single pig-out session any more than you can get heart disease from a single pig-out session. You can, however, have multiple pig-out sessions which result in obesity, which ups your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other things.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:49 AM on March 17, 2007

To sum up the epidemiology, there's no solid evidence that any kind of diet causes diabetes. There are some suggestive correlations between long-term eating habits and the development of diabetes, but these observed correlations don't even imply causation, much less tell you which direction any causal arrow would be pointing.

For instance, if you observed that people who later developed diabetes generally tended to eat more sugar, it would be reasonable to hypothesize that a pre-diabetic clinical state - maybe a genetic predisposition to diabetes - altered the subjects' behavior in such a way as to cause them to eat more sugar than those who did not have a pre-diabetic state.

In reply to selfmedicating, the evidence that eating more food or more calories or more sugar causes obesity is even less solid. The literature is filled with people who can eat 10000 kcal a day and not gain any weight onto their slim BMIs, as well as with already-obese people who put on yet more weight taking in no more than 1500 kcal. These examples tend to refute selfmedicating's oversimple hypothesis.

Obesity does seem to precede the development of clinical type 2 diabetes, and we think it may in fact predispose to the development of diabetes, but again there's no good evidence proving that causation.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:40 AM on March 17, 2007

She probably heard that if you eat too much sugar, you'll get diabetes, and took it the wrong way.
Or she wanted you to get your hands off her cookie dough.
posted by textilephile at 12:05 PM on March 17, 2007

see this performance by an artist who eats a few kilos of sugar.
posted by londongeezer at 2:54 PM on March 17, 2007

Ikkyu2 - I usually agree wholeheartedly with everything you write, or learn something from it - but in this case, I gotta say "huh?" Can you provide a cite? Google scholar gives me nothing.

I don't doubt there are case reports of people with unusual metabolisms. For the vast majority of us, though, calories in >> calories out => weight gain, and when your mom tells you not to pig out on sugar, it's a good idea.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:15 AM on March 18, 2007

Yes, ikkyu -- You hear of stuff like that, but I think FOR THE VAST, VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE, obesity stems from eating more than you burn off. For some people, their basal level of metabolism will affect that and it can allow you to eat more/work out less.....but for the common amongst us, I think we link obesity + eating.

About the candy bar comment, I was's a lot of sugar though. I know one doc, who skips the glucose and asks a patient to each as much of a double chocalate cake as they can handle and then return for a sugar test.....
posted by skepticallypleased at 9:33 AM on March 18, 2007

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