Scientists had said in the past that it was not sugar per se that caused diabetes but that overeating any food, including sugar, which led to weight gain, which then led to the obesity that predisposed people to diabetes.

Now, findings of a large epidemiological study published in the journal PLOS ONE suggest that sugar may have an independent, direct link to diabetes. When researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine studied data on sugar availability and diabetes rates in 175 countries over the past 10 years, they found that the more sugar in a population’s food supply, the higher the rates of diabetes.

This is the first large-scale, population-based evidence that not all calories are equal from a diabetes viewpoint, and that there are additional factors beyond total calorie intake and obesity that contribute to diabetes risk. “Sugar appears to play a prominent role,” said lead study author Sanjay Basu, MD, PhD, who is an assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, in a statement.

More sugar was correlated with more diabetes. For every additional 150 calories of sugar available per person per day, the prevalence of diabetes in the population rose by 1 percent, even after controlling for obesity, physical activity, and other types of calories, as well as economic and social variables. In comparison, an additional 150 calories of any type caused only a 0.1 percent increase in the population’s diabetes risk.

Remember, the AHA recommends no more than 100 calories (which is six teaspoons, or 24 grams) of added sugars daily for most women, and no more than 150 calories (which is nine teaspoons, or 36 grams) of added sugars daily for most men. One soda can? Yep. it contains 150 calories of sugar. Also, it’s not necessarily just the amount of sugar a food contains per serving that you’re eyeballing. It’s that, plus how many servings you realistically think you will be enjoying.

Other surprising foods that can contain larger amounts of sugar:

  • BBQ Sauce
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Granola Bars and Protein Bars
  • Baked Beans
  • Ketchup
  • Sports Drinks
  • Bottled Sweet Tea