Type 2 diabetes has become a global epidemic. Despite growing evidence implicating sugar as its cause, Big Soda and industry-funded science continue to point the finger at the scale.

The ice cubes clinking against the glass. The bright beads of condensation promising relief from the Ohio humidity. The refreshing zing. Sean Buchan loved sweet tea.

“The sweeter, the better,” the 40-year-old said.

He was open to alternatives. Mountain Dew or root beer—four to five cans each day—hit the spot just as well.

“I figured my options were to drink that or drink water, and I’m not much of a water drinker,” Buchan said.

That changed May 28, 2014, the day Buchan, a nurse and retired U.S. Army specialist, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Lab results from an unrelated blood test revealed a blood glucose level of 9.2 percent. Normal levels are within 4.5 to 6 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Buchan’s doctor prescribed daily doses of metformin, saxagliptin and glipizide—medications designed to decrease the amount of glucose the body absorbs from food and increase the body’s production of and response to insulin.

For Buchan—who weighed 262 lb. at 5 feet 11 inches and hadn’t regularly exercised since his Army days in 2005—the diagnosis was a wake-up call. As a nurse, he administered care for diabetics fighting blindness, amputation and death each day, but he never gave his sugar habit a second thought.

“I had the mentality of, ‘It could never happen to me.’”

Buchan added: “It was kind of my coming-to-Jesus moment. When I got home, I said to my wife, ‘I have got to change the way I eat.’”