Diabetes is one of the most misunderstood chronic diseases. With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s time to debunk some of the many myths that surround diabetes. Not only is it important to understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as was discussed in last week’s blog, but there are numerous misconceptions and untruths about this chronic condition that not only affect how people with diabetes are viewed but also how people with diabetes take care of their health.
Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.
Fact: Sugar does not cause diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is caused by a complex variety of factors including genetics, family history, viruses, and environment. While Type 2 diabetes is more common in individuals who are overweight, it is not caused directly by sugar alone; a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle can make one more susceptible for developing diabetes if they are predisposed through genetics and a family history.
Myth: People with diabetes cannot eat sugar.
Fact: Every person with diabetes has been asked, “Can you eat that?” And the answer is YES! Dessert and sweet treats are not off limits to people with diabetes. While foods with a high sugar content can raise blood sugar levels, so can any food containing carbohydrates. The key is moderation and a balancing act with medications. The amount of sugar a person with diabetes can eat depends on the individual and the medications he or she takes.
Many years ago, people with diabetes were told not to eat any sugar at all, but with new research and better diabetes treatments, people with diabetes can now consume sugar safely. This has remained the biggest myth about diabetes that many people still believe today.
Myth: Insulin cures diabetes.
Fact: Insulin is a treatment and a life-saving medication, but it is not a cure. There currently is no cure for diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin for their entire lives.
Myth: Being overweight causes Type 2 diabetes.
Fact: Another common misconception, but this assertion is also untrue. While being overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, there’s a lot more to diabetes than weight alone. To develop diabetes, you must be genetically predisposed. If you have this genetic component, maintaining a healthy weight and eating healthfully can delay, but will not entirely prevent diabetes.
Myth: Women with diabetes should not get pregnant.
Fact: While movies like “Steel Magnolias” would lead one to believe that this is true, women with diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. While a woman with diabetes, especially Type 1, is considered a high-risk pregnancy, as long as her diabetes is under good control and she works closely with a team of medical experts, she can safely deliver a healthy baby.
Myth: Diabetes is not that serious.
Fact: Diabetes causes more deaths than breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined. When not managed properly, diabetes can cause long-term complications that can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. In the short-term, chronically high blood sugar can lead to Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), which can be fatal, and people who take insulin can suffer from low blood sugar, which if left untreated, can lead to unconsciousness and sometimes even death.