You would think that a disease so common would be well-understood, but many myths about diabetes still persist. Let’s clear some of them up now.
Myth: Diabetes is just “a touch of sugar”. It’s not a big deal.
Fact: Diabetes kills one person every six seconds and kills more people across the world than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. With one death every six seconds, diabetes is now a bigger killer than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. It is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, and nervous system damage.
Diabetes is estimated to cost the global economy nearly $400 billion every year, which represents more than 10 percent of the world’s total healthcare expenses. No matter how cute nicknames like “a touch of sugar” might be, diabetes in any form is a deadly disease and should be taken seriously.
Myth: Overweight people always develop type 2 diabetes.
Fact: Though obesity does increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, there are so many other factors that come into play. Most overweight people never develop diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are only slightly overweight or at a completely normal weight. Losing weight can be an important tool in reducing your risk of developing diabetes, or managing it once it develops, but focusing only on weight can lead you to neglect other risk factors like diet, lifestyle, and family history.
Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating sugar
Fact: The myths and facts behind this sugar myth are similar to the myths and facts associated with overweight people and diabetes. There is a correlation between diabetes and high-calorie, high-sugar diets, but there’s no evidence that sugar causes diabetes. Diets that are high in sugar can cause weight gain, which can, in turn, increase your risk of diabetes, but type 2 diabetes is generally caused by a combination of weight, diet, lifestyle, and genetics, not by diet alone.
Myth: Diabetics can only eat special “diabetes food”
Fact: Diabetics just need to eat healthy food – just like anyone else should! In fact, a perfectly healthy diet for a diabetic person looks similar or identical to a perfectly healthy diet for anyone else without diabetes. People with diabetes should eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and steer clear of fats, sugars, and red meats. Cook for yourself whenever possible to control your diet, and maintain moderate portion sizes of everything that you do eat.
Though there is a market for special “diabetic” foods, they are expensive and can do more harm than good if you’re not careful, or they’re not quite right for your specific condition.
Myth: If you have diabetes, you can’t eat high-carb foods like pasta or bread
Fact: Everything in moderation! Diabetics can still eat bread, cereal, and pasta, and other starchy foods like rice and potatoes. But it’s important to watch your portion sizes to moderate your carbohydrate intake. There is no one-size-fits-all carbohydrate portion size, and every individual has different health needs. Your doctor or nutritionist can help you figure out the right amount of carbohydrates for yourself. Get a head start on figuring this out, so you can start eating the foods you enjoy without fear!
Myth: If you have diabetes, you can’t eat dessert.
Fact: Nobody should be eating loads of candy or cake anyway, and people with diabetes are no different. Desserts are fine in moderation, especially when combined with exercise and an otherwise healthy diet. It’s true that diabetics do need to be extra careful about their blood glucose levels and sugar consumption. But awareness is key here, and diabetics can eat desserts when they are conscious of their portions and their insulin intake.
Myth: If you need to use insulin with type 2 diabetes, it’s because you’re not taking care of yourself properly.
Fact: Because type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease that often has no symptoms for quite a long time, many people aren’t diagnosed until type 2 diabetes has already become a major problem. Many people are able to manage their type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise alone, but for others, insulin and with other oral medications are necessary to keep blood sugar at safe and healthy levels.
The pancreas of a person with diabetes produces less and less insulin over time, and eventually many people need to take supplementary insulin and medication in addition to their regular health care routine. It’s important to understand that using insulin to regulate your blood glucose is a good thing because it means that you’re taking care of your body, and reducing your risk of other complications like stroke and heart disease.
Myth: Fruit is health food, so diabetics can eat as much fruit as they want.
Fact: It’s absolutely true that fruit is healthy and full of vitamins and minerals. Like everyone else, diabetics should fill their diets with nutrient- and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. But fruits, especially, are rich in sugars, or carbohydrates, so they do raise blood sugar more than other foods.
As with all diets, your doctor and nutritionist can help you come up with a meal plan that includes the kinds and amounts of fruits (and other carbohydrates) that are appropriate for your medical condition.