Busting the Myths About Diabetes


For those with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, managing the condition can be overwhelming. It is challenging enough testing blood sugar, focusing on your food intake and exercise, and managing insulin and meds. There is also the day to day struggle to educate others about this condition.  There is so much misinformation, false assumptions, blame, and family and friends who seem like they have all the answers to this condition. We are here to set the record straight and begin conversations around diabetes.

Myth 1: True or False?

Type 2 diabetes occurs in obese and overweight individuals only.

FALSE

People of normal weight can have insulin resistance and develop type 2 diabetes.  Type 1 is generally diagnosed in patients with a normal weight or even underweight individuals. 

Myth 2: True or False?

People get diabetes because they eat too much sugar.

FALSE.

Sugar intake does not cause diabetes. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Exactly why this happens is unknown, although genetics and environmental factors, such as excess weight and inactivity, seem to be contributing factors.  

Myth 3: True or False?

People diagnosed with diabetes have caused their diabetes by not eating healthy.

FALSE.

When someone gets type 2 diabetes, it is not their fault. Diabetes is a complex condition and type 2 develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Exactly why this happens is unknown although it has a strong genetic link (even more so than type 1). While staying fit may delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, it does not guarantee prevention. If you have the “right” genes and live long enough, you will most likely develop diabetes. What if you don’t have the genes? You can gain weight and barely increase your risk at all.

Myth 4: True or False?

Type 1 diabetes is worse than type 2 diabetes.

FALSE.

Every person's situation is different and therefore needs to be addressed individually. People with type 1 diabetes need insulin to live – but those with type 2 can require large amounts of insulin as their resistance to it increases and their insulin production declines. 

Type 2s can walk around undiagnosed for five years and have complications when diagnosed. People with type 1 usually get diagnosed quickly and can take immediate action but also, some type 1s live with diabetes for a longer period of time and get diagnosed in their 20s, 30s, and beyond. Some type 2s are getting diagnosed as teenagers. 

Both Type 1 and 2 need to involve themselves in their care management which includes understanding the effects of food and activity, heightened awareness of their bodies, knowing how to use insulin and medications effectively, having positive relationships and open communication with their health care team, and be open to finding additional support as needed. The objective is proper care management to reduce the risk of developing complications. 

Myth 5: True or False?

Diabetes can be “cured” by using certain products, following certain diets, and doing certain exercises.

FALSE.

Although you will find all kinds of products that "claim" to improve or even cure diabetes.  It is highly unlikely that these products work and if they did then everyone would be taking it and we wouldn't have millions of people with diabetes.  Most often these unfounded solutions distract patients from diabetes self-care management that is proven to be effective for managing diabetes and reducing the complications of diabetes.  If you are looking for an approach that compliments your physician treatment plan, consider seeing an integrative medicine physician who is a medical doctor with additional expertise in alternative treatments.  These physicians work in conjunction with your current diabetes treatment plan.    

Myth 6: True or False?

You are too young to have diabetes. 

FALSE.

Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in children and young adults and type 2 diabetes in children has been increasing over the years particularly with young people who struggle with obesity and have a family history of diabetes. 

Myth 7: True or False?

 You look too healthy to have diabetes.

FALSE.

Can we really look at someone and determine their health status? What is happening on the inside of our bodies is not reflective of what we see on the outside. Awareness of your own body is very important.  When something within our body doesn't seem or feel right, see your doctor.  It is also important to have yearly wellness visits and as practice as much preventive care as possible. 

Some cultures have certain ideas around health and weight.  We must not be lead to believe that a person is considered healthy if they are thin and unhealthy if they are overweight.  How they take care of themselves is most important and only that person knows the answer.

Myth 8: True or False?
You know, if you would have taken care of yourself better, you wouldn't have gotten diabetes.
FALSE.

Most people struggle to take optimal care of themselves with or without diabetes.  We cannot place blame or fault on people who develop diabetes.  As discussed earlier, genetics plays a strong role in the development of type 2.  All we can do is continue to encourage people with pre diabetes and diabetes to do the most for themselves by learning about diabetes and taking some steps to reduce their risk factors with the right kind of assistance.  It may be very beneficial to seek the assistance of a Certified Diabetes Educator.

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What is gestational diabetes and how can it affect your baby? Is there a cure for Type 1 diabetes? If you’re living with diabetes, how often should you check your blood sugar? We have the answers to your diabetes questions with our “Let’s Learn!” series! Visit us on Facebook, Twitter and Facebook Latino to watch our short diabetes awareness animations!

Sources: American Diabetes Association, CDC, Joslin Diabetes Center, Judith Kolish, RD, LDN, CDE

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