Despite the tremendous amount of medical information now available to the public, many inaccurate ideas still persist about the nature and treatment of diabetes. Read on to separate fact from fiction.
The Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
The Truth: Years ago, folks called it “sugar diabetes,” implying that the disease was caused by eating too much of the sweet stuff. Medical experts now know that diabetes is triggered by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. However, being overweight ÔÇö which can result from indulging in high-calorie sugary foods ÔÇö does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. If you have a history of diabetes in your family, eating a healthy meal plan and getting regular exercise are recommended to manage your weight.
The Myth: People with diabetes can’t eat any sweets or chocolate.
The Truth: If part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with diabetes. They are no more “off limits” to people with diabetes than they are to people without diabetes.
The Myth: People with diabetes can only eat special diabetic foods.
The Truth: A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is the same as that for everyone: low in fat (especially the saturated and trans fats found in butter, lard, full-fat dairy products and meats, and solid vegetable oils), moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on whole-grain foods, vegetables and fruit. Diabetic and “dietetic” versions of sugar-containing foods offer no special benefit. They still raise blood glucose levels, are usually more expensive and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.
The Myth: All diabetics have to take insulin injections.
The Truth: Injected insulin is usually only necessary for those with Type 1 diabetes, in which the body no longer produces it own insulin. Those with Type 2 generally have plenty of insulin, but their bodies don’t respond well to it. Some people with type 2 diabetes, particularly if blood-glucose levels are poorly controlled, do need diabetes pills or insulin shots to help their bodies use glucose for energy. However, most type 2 cases can be helped without medication, by losing weight, adopting a healthier diet, increasing exercise and other lifestyle changes. (By the way, insulin cannot be taken as a pill, as the hormone would be broken down during digestion just like the protein in food. Insulin must be injected into the fat under the skin for it to get into your blood.)
The Myth: If you have diabetes, you have to stay away from starchy foods like bread, potatoes and pasta.
The Truth: Whole-grain breads, cereals and pasta, brown rice and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, yams, peas and corn are part of a healthy meal plan and can be included in your meals and snacks. These foods, high in complex carbohydrates, are also a good source of fiber, which helps keep your gastrointestinal system running smoothly. The key is portion size. Most people with diabetes should limit themselves to three or four servings of complex carbohydrates a day.
The Myth: Type 2 Diabetes only affects blood-sugar levels, decreasing your energy.
The Truth: Type 2 diabetes affects many different systems and organs of the body, including the cardiovascular system, leading to stroke or heart disease; the eyes, which can result in conditions from dry eye to retinal disease (retinopathy); the nerves, causing severe damage (neuropathy) that can necessitate lower-limb amputation; the kidneys, which fail and require dialysis; and the skin, which can become prone to infections. Experts predict that, over the next 30 years, there will be 35 million heart attacks, 13 million strokes, 8 million new cases of blindness, 6 million kidney failures, 2 millions amputations and 62 million deaths ÔÇö all linked to diabetes. Learn more about many serious complications and how to cope with them.
The Myth: Only adults can develop Type 2 Diabetes.
The Truth: Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in school-aged children. About 1 in every 400 to 600 children has type 1 diabetes, which was used to be called “juvenile diabetes,” which is caused by disruption of the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. However, in recent years more and more children and teens have become overweight (10 to 15 percent, about double the number of two decades ago), and so increasing numbers of young people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. According to several studies, since 1994, cases have increased from less than 5 percent to between 30 and 50 percent. Two million of those age 12 to 19 (or 1 in 6 overweight adolescents) have pre-diabetes.