Busting Myths About Diabetes

Busting Myths About Diabetes

Managing Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can be overwhelming. It means testing your blood sugar and focusing on your food. It means staying physically active and having a healthy weight. It means handling your insulin and other meds.

It can also be a struggle to teach others about the disease. There is so much misinformation about diabetes. Even family and friends can act like they have all the answers. Often, they don’t. So let's clear up the confusion. Let’s look at some of the most common myths about diabetes and set the record straight.

Myth 1: Only overweight people get diabetes.
People who tip the scales at a normal, healthy weight can have insulin resistance and get Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes often affects people who are a normal or even below normal body weight. 

Myth 2: You look too healthy to have diabetes.
A person isn’t healthy just because they’re thin. It’s equally true that a person isn’t ill just because they’re overweight. What’s going on inside our bodies doesn’t show on the outside. Know your body. Pay attention to its cues. When something doesn't feel right, see your doctor. Symptoms of diabetes can be subtle. You may not notice them. That’s why it’s important to have yearly health check-ups and get screened if your doctor thinks you have a risk for diabetes. 

Myth 3: You’re too young to have diabetes. 
Among the two types of diabetes, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that most often affects children and young adults. Still, Type 2, which used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, is now common in children and young people who struggle with obesity or have a family history of diabetes.

Myth 4: People cause their diabetes by eating too much sugar and unhealthy foods.
When someone gets diabetes, it is not their fault. Diabetes is a complex disease. Family history, lifestyle and other factors all play a role. With Type 2 diabetes, the body may grow resistant to insulin or the pancreas stops making enough insulin.

While there are some known family history and lifestyle risks, it’s still hard to predict who will get diabetes. Rather than blame, we should support people with pre-diabetes and diabetes. Encourage them to learn about diabetes and take steps to lower their risks.

Myth 5: Diabetes can be “cured” using certain products, diets or exercises.
There are all kinds of products that claim to help or even cure diabetes. It’s unlikely that they work. Even worse, they may keep you from a recommended program. If you’re thinking about changing your diabetes care, talk with your doctor so you can agree on a plan that is medically safe.

Myth 6: Type 1 diabetes is worse than Type 2 diabetes.
Each person's situation is different. The exact type of diabetes a person may have is less important than managing blood sugar levels.

To do so, people living with diabetes need to:

  • Understand the effects of food and physical activity
  • Know about their bodies
  • Know how to use insulin if prescribed
  • Use medicine effectively
  • Talk to their health care team
  • Find other support when needed

Taking good care of yourself is worth it. Proper diabetes care lowers the risk for complications.

Sources: Healthy Livingleaving site icon American Diabetes Association; Diabetes Myths and Factsleaving site icon MedlinePlus, 2023; Diabetes Basicsleaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2024

Originally published 11/7/2016: Revised 2019, 2022, 2024

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