Recently an article published in PLOS One by Basu, Yoffe, Hills and Lustig seemed to give the impression that sugar itself is a major cause of diabetes irrespective of obesity. And Times non-science columnist Mark Bittman published a column taking these suggestions as gospel.
But scientists who actually studied the paper discovered that this is another case of confusion correlation with cause. In fact, the on-line version of Bittman’s column contained a correction at the bottom noting this fact:
It did not find that “obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.” Obesity is, in fact, a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, as the study noted.
And Mark Hoofnagle in ScienceBlogs was even more blunt, calling Bittman “deluded.” The PLOS One paper was a study of the populations of entire countries, correlating sugar, obesity, age and availability of other foods. They found that even if you controlled for obesity, that added sugar tracked with the increase in diabetes. In no way did they indicate that sugar caused diabetes.
In fact a simple study of their graphs showed that the single greatest correlation is between obesity and diabetes, much as studies have been saying for years.
So again, it is too many calories leading to obesity, that correlates most strongly with diabetes.