Common Diabetes Myths Debunked
We’ve all heard of diabetes, or at least we should have. It's likely that someone in you family has it, or that someone you've worked with or known has suffered from it. Rates of diabetes are on the increase in the United States, with 1-in-10 Americans having been diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which ominously predicts that by 2050, as many as 1-in-3 adults will have the disease. That, unfortunately, could be you—so it’s important to be able to separate the myths from the facts.
Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
Verdict: Partially true.
There are also other risk factors associated with diabetes. Sugar is not the only culprit. Type 1 diabetes, for example, is caused by genetics. Type 2 diabetes can be caused by both genetics and lifestyle factors; however, research has shown that drinking sugary drinks are often linked to type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends limiting your intake of sugary beverages to help prevent diabetes. This means limiting the soda, fruit punch fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweet tea and especially energy drinks.
Aside from decreasing your intake of sugary beverages, watching and controlling your carbohydrate consumption can help to decrease fluctuations in blood glucose levels, which play a part in the development of diabetes. Keeping your blood glucose stable means less work for your pancreas, whose job it is to secrete the insulin that allows glucose into your body’s cells.
Here’s another brain buster:
Myth: You can only develop type 2 diabetes if you are overweight.
Being overweight IS a risk factor for diabetes, but there are other risk factors associated with this disease like family history, ethnicity and age. In fact, most people who are overweight never actually develop type 2 diabetes. In a complete contradiction of the conventional wisdom behind this myth is the fact that many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or are just moderately overweight. Even more surprising still is the estimation by the CDC that nearly 79 million Americans are well on their way to potentially developing type 2 diabetes, falling into the classification of prediabetic.
What do we mean by family history? Does that mean older people are more susceptible to diabetes?
Myth: Only older people get diabetes
There may have been some truth to this myth 20 or 30 years ago, but these days, children as young as 5 years old are being diagnosed with the disease. To help prevent the onset of diabetes at a young age, encourage your kids to enjoy eating healthy and exercising regularly.
Here’s another commonly believed myth:
Myth: If you have diabetes, you should eat a special diet
Verdict: Half true, half false.
As a diabetic, you can’t just eat whatever you want, but this by no means dooms you to a life of bland and boring food. In fact, the main difference between a diabetic’s diet and that of a non-diabetic is a more structured plan. Diabetics must control their intake of carbohydrates in order to regulate their blood sugar. The amount and spacing of carbohydrates permitted in a diabetic diet is dependent on a variety of factors, and should be determined in consultation with your doctor and dietitian. If you asked us, we’d tell you that everyone should eat a balanced, healthy diet of controlled carbs—not just diabetics.
If you’re wondering why we’re taking the time to clear up diabetes myths, it’s because this next one is one of the most commonly believed and most dangerous diabetes myths out there:
Myth: Diabetes is not that serious
Uncontrolled diabetes is a very serious health condition that can lead to the amputation of limbs, blindness, and even death. As we pointed out in the beginning of this article, diabetes affects one-in-10 Americans and those numbers are steadily increasing. Add in the fact that diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined, and it becomes clear that it is a very serious matter.
However, diabetes that is properly controlled through diet and exercise, as well as regular consultations with your doctor and dietitian, is much less likely to result in the negative complications above. In fact, proper control and management of diabetes can even lead to reversal of symptoms, and a decreased need for medications used to control blood sugar.
We hope this article has helped to clear up any misconceptions you may have had about diabetes. The truth is that you should be educated on this disease because it’s not going to go away and the very real reality is that it could be you or someone you love that gets diagnosed with it next.