Diabetes Management

Debunking 10 Common Myths About Diabetes

Diabetes is becoming more prevalent as it impacts people of all ages, from children to the elderly. 

With its increase in prevalence, there has also been some spreading of misinformation with diabetes myths. 

It’s important to debunk these diabetes myths for those with the disease themselves and for the people who know, love, and care for them.

10 Common Diabetes Myths

1) Diabetes isn’t a serious disease

Diabetes is becoming more common. 

By 2025, it’s estimated that the prevalence of diabetes will increase by 165% compared to the year 2000. 

Fortunately, the treatment options for diabetes are advancing all the time, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take diabetes seriously.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that has no cure. 

If left untreated, diabetes can result in numerous complications. 

Diabetes impacts the entire body because blood vessels fuel the whole body. 

When blood sugar levels are consistently high, it causes damage to the blood vessels, which causes diabetes complications.

Some of the most common diabetes complications include cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, vision changes or loss, poorly healing wounds leading to amputations, chronic kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

You aren’t destined to develop these complications just because you have diabetes. 

Taking good care of your health and achieving your blood sugar goals can significantly reduce your chances of developing complications.

2) If you’re overweight, you’re automatically going to get type 2 diabetes

While being overweight is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, it’s not a guarantee. 

Several other factors increase your risk, such as:

  • Having prediabetes, a condition where blood glucose is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
  • Being 45 years of age or older
  • Having a direct relative, such as a parent or sibling, with type 2 diabetes
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or having given birth to a larger baby (9 pounds or heavier)
  • Being a high-risk ethnicity (African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, Asian American)

If you’re overweight and have other diabetes risk factors, you’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than if you’re just overweight without other risk factors.

3) All types of diabetes are the same

Type 1 diabetes is the least prevalent of all types, accounting for 5-10% of all people with diabetes. 

Also referred to as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that destroys the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas. 

It typically is diagnosed in childhood, but older people can develop type 1 diabetes as well.

Type 1 diabetes has similar symptoms as type 2 diabetes, but it is usually managed differently. 

People with type 1 diabetes have to inject insulin because their body can’t make any, whereas people with type 2 diabetes can still make some of their own insulin. 

People with type 1 diabetes often use insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, which aren’t common among those with type 2 diabetes.

In addition, there aren’t as many well-known risk factors for type 1 diabetes, and it doesn’t impact people based on weight like those with type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and usually goes away after birth. 

However, women with a history of gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

4) You can’t eat any sugar if you have diabetes

You might think that diabetics can only have sugar-free foods. 

This is definitely not the case and is a very unfortunate diabetes myth. 

While it’s true that eating a lot of high-sugar foods when you have diabetes can make your blood sugar levels increase, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have any sweets.

Planning a healthy diet that includes both healthy foods and foods like sweets in moderation is a great way to strike a balance without deprivation or restriction, which can result in disordered eating.

5) If you need insulin injections it means you’ve failed at managing your diabetes

People are often discouraged when their healthcare provider tells them they need to switch from non-insulin diabetes medications to insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease and can lead to insulin deficiency over time, especially for those who have had the disease for many years. 

This means that despite your best efforts, your pancreas might not be able to produce enough insulin and require the help of insulin injections at some point.

6) You have to follow a very low-carbohydrate diet

While carbohydrates significantly impact blood glucose levels, it doesn’t mean that they have to be eliminated or overly restricted. 

Eating a moderate amount of carbohydrates and keeping your carbohydrate intake consistent throughout the day can help promote steady blood sugar levels.

Some diabetics may choose to follow a low-carbohydrate diet, which is acceptable as well. 

Those taking insulin (or other diabetes medications that can cause low blood glucose) for their diabetes should check with their healthcare provider or certified diabetes educator before trying a ketogenic diet, which is an extremely low carbohydrate diet.

7) Taking insulin means you don’t have to make any lifestyle changes

A typical diabetes myth is that you can “eat whatever you want” and just inject enough insulin to cover the rise in blood sugar. 

This type of mentality can lead to high blood sugar levels and low blood sugar from over-injecting insulin.

While it’s true that injecting insulin helps to lower blood sugar and manage diabetes, there are many other essential aspects of diabetes management. 

Being physically active, managing blood pressure levels, and watching your cholesterol are equally important and can help reduce diabetes complications.

8) You can tell when your blood sugar levels are high or low, so there’s no need to test

People who have had diabetes for a long time can get better at recognizing the symptoms of high and low blood sugar. 

However, that doesn’t negate the importance of testing your blood sugar. 

Testing allows you to know exactly what your blood sugar level is, how it’s changing and whether or not you need to seek medical attention.

Symptoms of low blood sugar can become more difficult to sense over time, especially if you have repeated episodes of low blood sugar. 

This results in a dangerous condition called hypoglycemia unawareness, which increases the likelihood of severe low blood sugar. 

If blood sugar levels fall too low, you can become disoriented, lose consciousness and even go into a coma.

So it’s important to test your blood sugar if you think it might be low.

9) Insulin will harm you

Injectable insulin has been used for almost 100 years and is very safe to use. 

If you need insulin to manage your blood sugar and choose not to take it, the chances of health complications will increase. Whereas the risks involved with taking insulin are much lower in comparison.

The main risk of using insulin is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. 

This can be avoided by gradually adjusting insulin and working with a certified diabetes educator and your regular healthcare provider.

10) If you’re active and at a healthy weight, you can’t get diabetes

Being active and maintaining a healthy weight can drastically reduce your diabetes risk. However, no one is immune from developing diabetes. 

Around 10-15% of people with diabetes are at a healthy weight; when this occurs, people often refer to it as “lean diabetes.”

People that are lean are also more likely to have type 1.5 diabetes. This is the unofficial term for a condition called Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA). 

LADA is like type 1 diabetes but tends to occur in adulthood versus childhood.

Conclusion

Diabetes is a chronic disease that is increasing in prevalence. 

It’s a serious disease that comes with numerous risks and complications. But you can also manage diabetes effectively through healthy lifestyle habits and medication

Many diabetes myths have been circulating, many of them potentially harmful. 

Understanding how diabetes works, along with managing diabetes, can help you stay informed and better identify diabetes myths.

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Sources

  1. Grill V. LADA: A Type of Diabetes in its Own Right? Curr Diabetes Rev. 2019. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30009711/
  2. Dixon JB, O’Brien PE, Playfair J, Chapman L, Schachter LM, Skinner S, Proietto J, Bailey M, Anderson M. Adjustable gastric banding and conventional therapy for type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2008. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18212316/

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