Does sugar cause diabetes? Can a diabetic person eat chocolate? This article will answer your most common questions about diabetes and bust common diabetes myths.
Read on for the truth on diabetes myths, including answers to questions like, “Can eating sugar cause diabetes?”
Diabetes Myth #1: Eating Sugar Causes Diabetes
What causes diabetes can vary by type. There are two main types of diabetes, including type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is largely unknown. It is thought to be linked to genetics and environment, meaning having family members with the disease or living a lifestyle with increased risk factors may play a role. However, this condition cannot be prevented with lifestyle or diet, and it is considered an autoimmune disease with an onset (typically) in early childhood.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, actually begins with a condition called prediabetes. Prediabetes arises when your body does not make enough insulin or the body misuses the insulin it makes.
Risk factors that show up during screening for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes include:
• Family history of the disease
• Impaired glucose metabolism
• Old age
• Physical inactivity
As you can see, it is not just eating too much sugar that causes diabetes! There are many causes and factors that are unknown. Luckily, for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, medication, lifestyle, and diet modifications can be helpful in managing the conditions and improving the overall quality of life.
And speaking of sugar consumption, people managing diabetes can eat chocolate - and eat sweets in general, for that matter! However, it’s important to be mindful of portions and servings while also considering the amount of added sugar.
When in doubt, try going for a square of dark chocolate with little added sugar. Compared to white chocolate and milk chocolate, dark chocolate is choc-full of health benefits thanks to its higher antioxidant content.
Diabetes Myth #2: Weight and Diabetes Are Always Linked
When it comes to type 1 diabetes, body weight is not thought to be a factor. With type 2 diabetes, about 89% of individuals have a body mass index in the “overweight” or “obese” category. BMI, however, should not be used as the only weight measure, analysis, or indicator.
Weight and the scale can fluctuate for a lot of reasons. When it comes to weight, it is important to monitor trends by regularly meeting with your doctor and dietitian. There are so many other factors that come into play with diabetes, and weight is only one of those factors.
Two factors that you can focus on to better manage or prevent type 2 diabetes are diet and physical activity. Ask your doctor for referrals to professionals (i.e. Certified Diabetes Educators, dietitians, physical therapists) that can help you make manageable and meaningful changes.
Diabetes Myth #3: Cutting Out Carbs Will Solve the Problem
Did you know that even among people with diabetes, carbohydrate needs can differ? Your body’s need for carbohydrates is as unique as you are.
Diabetes can make calculating the number of carbs you need a little more complex, but definitely not impossible. Just like any other skill, calculating carbohydrates takes practice.
The body and brain need an appropriate amount of carbs to function. Keep in mind that it will take some time to find the right balance. A dietitian can help you understand the glycemic index better as well as support you in choosing quality carbohydrates.
Diabetes Myth #4: Exercising Is Dangerous and/or Hard
Exercising and moving the body can impact levels of glucose in your blood, which is why many people think it can be dangerous to exercise when you have diabetes. On the contrary, exercise is encouraged and can be a valuable part of your health and diabetes care plan.
The main danger with exercising when you have diabetes is hypoglycemia. This is a condition where blood sugar levels drop to a dangerously low level when glucose is not entering the cells. In other words, getting to this state means the body is not being fueled in the way it needs to be to support your activity.
Most types of exercise take some form of forethought, planning, and careful consideration. If you have diabetes, make sure to pick a type of movement you love and plan accordingly. Know that it can be safe and healthy to exercise when you prepare, participate, and recover in a thoughtful way.
For example, adjust your insulin dose according to your activity. Alternatively, you can fuel with an additional source of glucose beforehand.
Diabetes Myth #5: Diabetes Always Leads To Damage
Popular medical shows can seem scary! Some seem to always portray diabetes as a chronic disease that will surely lead to leg amputation.
When diabetes is left untreated, it may lead to some scary situations. However, checking in with your doctor and following your prescribed protocol for treatment can help you better manage your diabetes.
Since glucose fuels your body at the cellular level, leaving diabetes untreated can affect many areas of the body (i.e. eyes, kidneys, nerves). You can avoid damage by seeking treatment and sticking to your management plan today.
The Bottom Line On Diabetes Myths
Much of the myths we believe about diabetes come from misinformation or the media. The reality is that many people with diabetes have improved their quality of life by finding management plans that work for them individually.
Don’t be afraid to ask your dietitian, doctor, or other health professional questions. Early detection is key to prevention!
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