Can diabetics eat brown sugar?

In this short article, we will answer the question, “can diabetics eat brown sugar?” We will also explain the misunderstanding related to brown and white sugar and the effects of sugar on blood glucose levels.

Can diabetics eat brown sugar?

Yes, but it is not recommended that diabetics eat brown sugar..

Excessive consumption of white sugar and brown sugar has negative effects on insulin resistance, and body weight. The negative effects of  brown sugar on these factors are less than those of white sugar.(1) 

Brown sugar is frequently promoted as a natural, healthier alternative to white sugar, even though they’re both made from the same sources.

If you have diabetes, it’s particularly essential to understand the distinctions and how they affect your health.

What are the dietary factors for the management of diabetes sugar consumption? 

Limiting intake of added sugars has been recommended for diabetes management. 

Including other nutrient-rich foods such as fats and fibers in your diet is important. It’s worth noting that consuming pure sugar is different from consuming sugar within whole foods. 

The concentration of sugar in the overall food is typically negligible. For example, if sugar accounts for only 1% of the nutrients in a particular food, it will not have a significant negative impact on your health.

 Naturally occurring fructose from whole fruits is unlikely to be deleterious because of its relatively slow digestion and absorption unless consumed in an excess amount (>10% of energy).

However, overconsumption of high fructose-sweetened beverages has adverse effects on selective deposition of visceral fat, lipid metabolism, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and lipogenesis in overweight and obese individuals.

Nonnutritive sweeteners may have potential to reduce overall calorie and carbohydrate intake.Replacing added sugar with nonnutritive sweeteners reduces body weight and improves glycemic control, but the long-term effects need to be investigated.(6)

Is it, for a diabetic, better to consume brown sugar over white sugar?

Yes, it is better for a diabetic to consume brown sugar over white sugar because the brown sugar, contrary to the refined one, does not go through a large number of chemical processes; therefore,customers consider it as a more natural substitute compared to the white sugar.

The brown sugar is the raw, moist and dark sugar obtained after the sugar cane dehydration. Since it does not go through a refining process, it maintains the calcium and the iron, in addition to other vitamins and minerals

This type of sugar is easily recognized by its color and flavor, which are similar to panela or even of the sugarcane juice. This characteristic is due to the fact that the brown sugar does not go through more elaborate processes of juice clarification. (3)

Is Sugar Linked to a Higher Risk of Diabetes?

It is not clear if sugar is linked to a higher risk of diabetes. The impact of added sugar consumption on health continues to be a controversial topic.

Some studies do not support a unique relation to obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, risk factors for heart disease, or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. (4)

But here is evidence to suggest that diets high in added sugar promote the development of metabolic disease both directly and indirectly. 

Directly, the fructose component in sugar causes dysregulation of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism.

Indirectly, sugar promotes positive energy balance, thus body weight and fat gain, which also cause dysregulation of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism. 

Due to the direct and indirect pathway, the risk for metabolic disease is exacerbated when added sugar is consumed with diets that allow for body weight and fat gainion.

The prevalence of metabolic syndrome, CVD and Type 2 Diabetes is strongly associated with the presence of overweight and obesity. This has led to the widespread belief that diet impacts metabolic disease solely through the effects of excess body weight and fat.

However, if sugar consumption has direct effects that increase risk factors for metabolic disease in the absence of positive energy balance, this assertion is not true. (5)

What is the Risk of High Added Sugar Consumption?

There is considerable epidemiological evidence suggesting intake of added sugars and/or sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with the presence of unfavorable lipid levels, insulin resistance fatty liver, Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, visceral adiposity and hyperuricemia. (5)

What is the nutrient profile of brown and white sugar?

The nutrient profiles of brown and white sugar differ, as traditional white cane sugars consist of nearly 99% of sucrose , whereas brown cane sugars are composed of 88%–93% of sucrose and characterized by an exquisite flavor and odor.

Sugars, such as brown sugar (BS) and refined sugar (RS), are usually sequentially processed: washing, extraction, purification, crystallization, drying, and packaging. Owing to it is the high purity of RS, its nutritional value low, and thus, it provides empty calories.

By contrast, BS has higher amounts of phenolics than RS. Phytochemicals play an important role in maintaining physical health.

However, the phytochemicals of BS are low. Aside from conferring sweet taste and extra energy, the phytochemicals in cane sugar help improve health and reduce the risk of metabolic diseases.(2)


In this short article, we answered the question, “can diabetics eat brown sugar?” We also explained the misunderstanding related to brown and white sugar and the effects of sugar on blood glucose levels.


  1. Shamsi-Goushki A, Mortazavi Z, Mirshekar MA, Behrasi F, Moradi-Kor N, Taghvaeefar R. Effects of High White and Brown Sugar Consumption on Serum Level of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, Insulin Resistance, and Body Weight in Albino Rats. J Obes Metab Syndr. 29(4):320-324.2020
  2. Azlan A, Khoo HE, Sajak AAB, Aizan Abdul Kadir NA, Yusof BNM, Mahmood Z, Sultana S. Antioxidant activity, nutritional and physicochemical characteristics, and toxicity of minimally refined brown sugar and other sugars. Food Sci Nutr. 2020
  3. Orlandi, R. D. M., Verruma-Bernardi, M. R., Sartorio, S. D., & Borges, M. T. M. R. . Physicochemical and Sensory Quality of Brown Sugar: Variables of Processing Study. Journal of Agricultural Science, 9(2), 115. 2017
  4. Rippe JM, Angelopoulos TJ. Sugars and Health Controversies: What Does the Science Say? Adv Nutr.6(4):493S–503S. 2015
  5. Stanhope, K. L.  Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy. Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 53(1), 52–67. 2015.
  6. Ley SH, Hamdy O, Mohan V, Hu FB. Prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: dietary components and nutritional strategies. Lancet. 2014 Jun 7;383(9933):1999-2007

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