The 5 Most Common Diabetes Myths

Source: Flickr/Jill A. Brown

November is American Diabetes Month, and it’s an opportunity to raise awareness about a disease many face but don’t fully understand. Currently, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. That’s roughly 8.3% of the population, and another 79 million people are estimated to be in the pre-diabetes stage.

Despite it being a widespread issue, there are many misconceptions about diabetes that seem to persist. Make sure you know how to separate fact from fiction.

Myth #1: Diabetes is not a life-threatening disease.

Unfortunately, diabetes can be a very serious health issue. Two out of three diabetics die from heart disease or stroke, and they have a 25 percent higher risk of dying from cancer. There is also a higher likelihood to die from other illnesses such as infections, lung and kidney disease, and injuries. In 2007, diabetes contributed to a total of 231,404 deaths. That is more deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

Myth #2: Sugar consumption causes diabetes.

While sugar is a factor with type 2 diabetes, it’s not the black and white culprit many think it is. Type 1 diabetes is the result of genetics and other unknown factors, and type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors – such as an unhealthy diet and weight gain. It’s more about the amount of food one is eating. However, the American Diabetes Association does recommend people limit their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages to prevent unnecessary calories that lead to weight gain.

Myth #3: Only obese people get diabetes.

Like sugar, obesity plays a role in developing diabetes, but it’s not the only cause. And there are plenty of people in a healthy weight range that suffer from diabetes. Family history, ethnicity, and age are all strong factors in whether someone is at risk for diabetes, and again, a healthy diet is important.

Myth #4: Diabetes requires regular insulin shots.

Diabetes is a progressive disease that takes time to develop. Many type 2 diabetics are able to keep their blood glucose at a healthy level with oral medications, so regular insulin shots are not a requirement for those managing the disease – at least not initially. Eventually the body produces less of its own insulin, and oral medications might not do the job. That’s when insulin is introduced to get blood glucose to a healthy level.

Myth #5: Diabetics require a special diet.

The diet for those managing diabetes is the same for everyone. It should be healthy, whole foods rich in nutrients and low in fat, salt, and sugar. Emphasis should be placed around whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. There is no “special diet” for diabetics, though it’s critical to be mindful of portion sizes and trigger foods.

For more information about diabetes, click here.

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