Skip to Content

Do diabetics crave sugar?

It’s a common myth that diabetics crave sugar more than non-diabetics. In reality, this isn’t necessarily true. Diabetics do not inherently crave sugar more than anyone else. However, there are some explanations for why diabetics may seem to crave sugar at times.

Do diabetics actually crave sugar?

Diabetics do not inherently crave sugar more than non-diabetics. In fact, research shows that people with diabetes tend to crave high-fat and high-salt foods rather than sugary foods. One study found that people with diabetes preferred savory foods over sweet foods. Their taste preferences were the same as those without diabetes.

This makes sense when you consider that diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to properly regulate blood sugar levels. People with diabetes need to moderate their sugar intake to control their blood sugar. Their bodies do not crave adding more sugar to their systems.

Why do some diabetics crave sugar?

If diabetics don’t inherently crave sugar, why does the myth persist that they do? There are a few potential reasons that could create this misconception:

Reactive hypoglycemia – When blood sugar drops too low, some diabetics may get cravings for quick sources of sugar to bring their blood sugar back up fast. This is called reactive hypoglycemia. The cravings are a reaction to low blood sugar levels, not an inherent desire for sugar.

Habit or comfort eating – Diabetics may crave sugary foods that they are used to eating for comfort or out of habit, like any non-diabetic. This again is not caused specifically by diabetes or sugar cravings.

Medication side effects – Certain diabetes medications can cause increased appetite or cravings as a side effect. These medication-induced cravings can be for any food, not just sugar.

So in summary, any sugar cravings experienced by diabetics are not inherent to diabetes itself. They are either a response to low blood sugar, habitual eating, or medication side effects in some cases.

What foods do diabetics crave?

While diabetics do not intrinsically crave sugar more than anyone else, they do often have cravings for high-fat and high-salt foods.

Some common food cravings that diabetics report include:

Food Craving Example Food Items
Salty snacks Chips, pretzels, crackers, nuts
Fatty meats Bacon, sausage, ribs
Full-fat dairy Cheese, ice cream, whole milk
Fried foods French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts

These cravings for salty, fatty foods are likely driven by:

– Fluctuating blood sugar levels
– Nutritional deficits common in diabetes
– Habitual eating patterns

Managing these cravings through careful meal planning and nutrition can help diabetics stay on track with dietary recommendations.

Tips for managing food cravings with diabetes

Diabetics can try the following strategies to deal with cravings for high-fat, high-salt foods:

– Stay consistent with meal timing and portions to prevent blood sugar dips.
– Focus on balanced meals with nutrient-dense foods.
– Allow yourself small servings of craved foods on occasion.
– Find healthier substitutes that satisfy the craving.
– Distract yourself with activity or drink water when a craving hits.
– If cravings persist, talk to your doctor about potential medication adjustments or nutritional deficiencies.

While difficult to resist, cravings are manageable. With the right dietary pattern, diabetics can indulge occasionally while still sticking to their recommended eating plan.

How does diabetes affect sugar metabolism?

To understand why diabetics do not inherently crave sugar, it helps to look at how diabetes impacts sugar metabolism in the body.

In people without diabetes, blood sugar is regulated by two key hormones:

Insulin – Lowers blood sugar by signaling cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. It is released by the pancreas.

Glucagon – Raises blood sugar by signaling the liver to release stored glucose. Also released by the pancreas.

Insulin and glucagon work together to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range.

In diabetes, problems arise when:

– The pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin (type 1 diabetes)


– The body becomes resistant to insulin’s effects (type 2 diabetes)

This causes blood sugar levels to become too high (hyperglycemia).

The body tries to lower high blood sugar by:

– Producing more insulin (early type 2 diabetes)
– Breaking down fat and protein for energy instead of glucose (later type 2 diabetes)
– Excreting excess glucose in urine

Over time, uncontrolled high blood sugar can lead to serious complications.

That’s why diabetics need to monitor carbohydrate intake. Their bodies cannot properly regulate surges of sugar entering their bloodstream. Adding more sugar would further overwhelm their system.

Takeaway on sugar metabolism

Diabetics limit sugar because their bodies lack the ability to effectively metabolize and regulate sugar, not because they inherently crave it. In fact, ingesting large amounts of sugar can be extremely harmful to diabetics. Their bodies do not crave activities that are damaging.

What about sugar substitutes?

Sugar substitutes are often promoted as “diabetic-friendly” sugar alternatives. But do artificially sweetened foods actually curb sugar cravings for diabetics?

Research shows mixed results:

Study Findings on Sugar Substitutes
2008 study in Appetite journal Artificial sweeteners increased cravings for sugary foods in rats.
2013 study in Behavioral Neuroscience Rats fed artificial sweeteners had greater cravings for sweet foods.
2016 study in International Journal of Obesity No evidence that sweeteners increase appetite/cravings in humans.
2021 review in Nutrients Inconclusive evidence that sweeteners affect cravings and appetite in humans.

The varying study results may come down to differences between rodent and human biology. More research is still needed.

According to diabetes educators, sugar substitutes can have a place in diabetic diets when used correctly:

– To replace sugar in moderation, not completely
– Combined with proper medication, lifestyle management
– Under guidance from your healthcare provider

Relying too heavily on sugar substitutes while ignoring overall blood sugar management carries risks. But with proper use, they may help diabetics satisfy a sweet tooth without disrupting blood sugar levels.

Healthy sugar alternative options

Here are some alternatives diabetics can use instead of added sugars:

– Low-glycemic natural sweeteners: maple syrup, honey, agave nectar
– Fresh fruit: berries, bananas, stone fruits
– Unsweetened applesauce or mashed fruit
– Dried fruits (in moderation)
– Spices: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg
– Extracts: vanilla, almond, orange

Moderating overall carb and sugar intake, rather than simply swapping sweeteners, is key for diabetics. But these options can make it easier to keep cravings under control.

Can diabetics have sugar sometimes?

What if diabetics just want a little sweet treat occasionally? Are small amounts of sugar completely off limits?

The American Diabetes Association states that having some sugar or sweets on occasion can be part of a healthy diabetic diet. The key is moderation and properly managing intake.

Here are some tips for diabetics to consume sugar mindfully:

– Talk to your doctor and dietitian about appropriate sugar intake goals
– Match carbohydrate intake to medication and physical activity
– Consume sugary foods alongside proteins, fats, fiber
– Avoid sodas and sugary drinks – stick to water
– Choose fresh fruit or small candies over large desserts
– Monitor blood sugar closely when consuming treats
– Don’t let a slip up derail your overall eating plan

With proper diabetes management and careful limits, having an occasional sweet treat does not have to be strictly forbidden. The key is planning ahead and accounting for the extra sugar. Removing all restrictions can actually backfire and increase cravings.

The Takeaway?

Diabetics absolutely can consume moderate amounts of sugar on occasion and still stick to a healthy diet. Depriving yourself of all sweets is not necessary – and may in fact increase cravings. Work with your care team to determine your “sweet spot” for enjoying the occasional treat while still successfully managing blood sugar levels.


So in summary:

– Diabetics do not inherently crave sugar more than non-diabetics. Their cravings tend to skew more towards high-fat, high-salt foods.

– Cravings can sometimes develop as a reaction to low blood sugar, habitual eating, or medication effects. But they are not caused directly by the disease.

– Diabetes disrupts normal metabolism and regulation of blood sugar levels. Consuming large amounts of added sugar can further exacerbate blood sugar control problems.

– The impact of sugar substitutes on appetite and cravings is still inconclusive. Moderating overall carb intake, rather than just swapping sweeteners, is key.

– With proper diabetes management and careful limits, having small amounts of sugar occasionally can be part of a healthy diet for diabetics. Moderation and portion control is key.

– Working with a doctor and dietitian is the best way for diabetic patients to incorporate occasional sugar intake into their lifestyle appropriately.

So rather than strictly forbidding all sugars, the smart approach is to allow calculated indulgences while emphasizing overall balance, variety and moderation in the diet. With the right plan, diabetics can satisfy sweet cravings wisely.