Everyone knows everything about diabetes — particularly those who don’t have it.
Uniquely among health conditions, uninformed family members, friends, and even strangers think they know all about your diabetes and are quick to judge you, give you advice, or ask whether you can do, whatever the activity under discussion is.
There are numerous myths regarding diabetes. Many are archaic scraps of information that simply no longer are true.
Others were never true in the first place, but have been believed by people both with diabetes and without it. Finally, some myths are just curiously bizarre.
Myth 1: People with diabetes can’t eat sugar
This is one of the most common diabetes myths; that people with the condition have to eat a sugar-free diet. People with diabetes need to eat a balanced diet, which can include some sugar in moderation. People with diabetes can eat natural sugar.
Myth 2: Overweight and obesity can cause diabetes
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes but it is not a direct cause. It can happen that overweight people may not develop type 2 diabetes while some people who are of healthy weight will develop type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is not preventable and is not caused due to excess weight, physical inactivity or any lifestyle factors.
Myth 3: Are all types of diabetes the same
The most common types of diabetes are type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Each type of diabetes has different causes and needs treatment differently but if someone has any type of diabetes except gestational diabetes, it needs management every day. However, gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy, but it does significantly increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. All types of diabetes are complex and serious.
Myth 4: If we eat too much sugar, can we get diabetes?
Genetics and other unknown factors are responsible for triggering type 1 diabetes, while lifestyle factors are responsible for causing type 2 diabetes. Being overweight increases your risk of having diabetes and a diet rich in calories can lead to an increase in weight gain. Sugary drinks can cause type 2 diabetes.
Myth 5: Type 2 diabetes only affects fat people
Whilst type 2 diabetes is often associated with being overweight and obese by the media, it is patently untrue that type 2 diabetes only affects overweight people. Around 20% of people with type 2 diabetes are of normal weight, or underweight.
Myth 6: You will know if you have diabetes by your symptoms
Not true always. Type 2 diabetes often goes undiagnosed because it usually has few or no symptoms when it first develops.
Myth 7: Exercising when you have diabetes only increases your chances of experiencing low blood sugar
Don’t think that just because you have diabetes you can skip out on your workout! Exercise is crucial to controlling diabetes. If you’re on insulin or a medication that increases insulin production in the body, you have to balance exercise with your medication and diet. Talk to your health professional about creating a nutrition program that is right for you and your body.
Myth 8: Only people with type 1 diabetes need insulin?
People who are suffering from type 1 diabetes depend on insulin replacements. They need to check their blood glucose levels several times during the day. On the other hand, type 2 is a progressive condition. 50% of people with type 2 diabetes will need insulin 6-10 years of being diagnosed with diabetes because the pancreas produces less insulin over some time. Taking medication when required can result in fewer complications in the long-term and is part of managing type 2 diabetes.
Myth 9: Can Insulin be harmful?
Insulin is a lifesaver but it is also difficult to manage for some people. New and improved insulin reduces blood sugar. Testing your blood sugar levels, however, is the only way to know how your treatment plan is working for you.
Myth 10: Being on insulin means, you don’t have to make any lifestyle changes
When you’re first diagnosed, your blood sugar may be controlled adequately by diet, exercise, and oral medications. Eventually, however, your medications may not be as effective as they were, and you’ll likely need insulin injections to help control your blood sugar levels.
Managing your diet and exercise with insulin is very important to help keep blood sugar levels in their target range and to help avoid complications.
Myth 11: Women with diabetes should not get pregnant
Women who manage their diabetes well can have a normal pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.
Myth 12: People with diabetes should only eat diabetic food
Diabetic food is one of the most common myths of the last ten years. The label ‘diabetic’ is often used on sweets foods. Walk down almost any grocery store aisle and you’ll find a selection of sugar-free, processed foods. But don’t assume that a sugar-free label on a product makes it healthy. It may still contain a lot of carbs, fat, or calories.
Often sugar alcohols, or other sweeteners, will be used instead of sugar. Diabetic food will often still affect blood glucose levels, is expensive, and may also cause adverse side effects. Be sure to check the nutrition label for the total carb content.
Myth 13: Fruit is bad
There are no forbidden fruits on a diabetes diet. While it’s true that some fruits contain more natural sugars than others, you can enjoy any of them if you stick to the proper portion. One serving of any type of fruit contains about 15 grams of carbohydrate.
For example, that’s equal to about:
• 1/2 medium banana
• 1/2 cup cubed mango
• 3/4 cup cubed pineapple
• 1 1/4 cups strawberries
• 2 tablespoons dried fruit
Myth 14: Carbohydrates (carbs) are the enemy
Carbs aren’t your enemy. It is not carbs themselves, but the type of carb and the quantity of carb that you eat that is important for those with diabetes. Not all carbs are created equal. Those that are low on the glycemic index (GI) scale, a measure of how quickly foods with carbohydrates may impact blood sugar levels, are better choices than those with a high GI. Examples of low-GI carbs include:
• rolled or steel-cut oatmeal
• whole-grain bread
• dried beans and legumes
• low-starch vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes
Myth 15: Artificial sweeteners are safe
Although many people assume that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strictly regulates artificial sweeteners, many food additives enter the market without any oversight. The manufacturer itself can determine if their additive is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). They can also decide whether or not they want to notify the FDA when they use a new food additive, whether it’s GRAS or not.
Despite the controversy around the safety of artificial sweeteners, the FDA Trusted Source has deemed the following sweeteners safe to consume under certain conditions of use:
• aspartame, which you should avoid if you have phenylketonuria
• acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K)
Not all people with diabetes need drug therapy. A healthy eating plan and exercise alone can be enough if the person makes significant lifestyle changes. This health condition can be prevented by following a balanced nutrition diabetic friendly diet , staying physically active, and getting regular medical screenings.
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar