There are many popular ideas about diabetes circulating around but how many of them are actually true? These myths, half-truths and misinterpretations which are spread on the internet can be harmful as they can create a false perception or unfair stigma around this condition. Since information about diabetes is so widespread, it can be hard sometimes to differentiate facts from myths, so in this article, we will aim to clear up some of the confusion.
- There are four types of diabetes
The four types of diabetes are Type 1, Type 1.5, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that comes from genetic complications in which your body doesn’t produce insulin for itself at all. Type 1 diabetes is prevalent in younger people and those with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to be able to live. Type 1.5 diabetes is called Latent Autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). Similar to type 1 diabetes, it occurs because the pancreas stops producing enough insulin but some of the characteristics are similar to type 2 diabetes making it fall in between the two. Type 2 diabetes is usually a result of excess consumption of glucose, in the form of carbohydrates or sugar, and when cells are no longer able to take in glucose from the bloodstream. It is most common in individuals over the age of 45. The final type is gestational diabetes, which occurs only in women during pregnancy, and goes away after the baby is born. However, women who have had gestational diabetes are at risk for Type 2 diabetes after they give birth.
- Most Type 2 diabetes can be treated without medication
Type 2 diabetes is almost always preventable and often treatable as it stems from too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream, contrary to Type 1 diabetes which is a genetic condition. Like other large diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure, a lot of the time, type 2 diabetes is a result of poor dietary choices. Studies show that exercise and a balanced diet with limited intake of meat, dairy, and junk food is a better approach to treat or prevent diabetes. Exercise paired with a healthy lifestyle and diet lowers blood glucose levels and improves the sensitivity of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Read in detail; Control, Manage and Reverse diabetes simplified
- Diabetes is a major cause of other chronic diseases
Diabetes is a major cause of kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, etc. In 2019, kidney disease due to diabetes alone caused around 2 million deaths. If left untreated, diabetes could lead to irreversible end-stage kidney disease which may require a kidney transplant. One of the most common complications due to diabetes is nerve damage. Nerve damage can cause numbness and pain in parts of your body. It most often affects the feet and legs but can also affect your digestion, blood vessels, eyes, and heart. Damage to the nerves of the heart can contribute to irregular heart rhythms and can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, or constipation. Managing diabetes and controlling your blood sugar through healthy habits can lower your risk for these complications or coexisting conditions.
- The risk of getting Type 2 diabetes increases with age
Even though the number of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is growing due to more overweight youth, it is much less common in children and young adults than in older people. For example, in a data set out by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), for children ages 19 and under, the rate of people with type 2 diabetes is about 0.26 percent, while comparatively, about 12.3 percent of all adults age 20 or older have diabetes. And 25.9 percent of adults 65 years or older have diabetes. Adults ages 40 to 59 comprise the world’s age group with the highest diabetes rates.
- The vast majority of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes
The International Diabetes Federation report states that more than 400 million people were living with diabetes as of 2015. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 90 percent of people around the world who have diabetes have type 2. In 2012, diabetes caused an estimated 1.5 million deaths. WHO anticipates that worldwide deaths from diabetes will double by 2030. Along with that, around one in every three to four people are affected by prediabetes, which means your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Around 50% of people over the age of 65 and 34% of people of 18 are considered to have prediabetes.
- People with diabetes shouldn’t eat any sugar or carbohydrates
People with diabetes can include carbohydrates (and to a lesser extent, sugars) in their meals in moderation. Carbs are the foundation of a healthy diet, so whether you have diabetes or not, it should never be completely avoided. They do, however, affect your blood sugar levels, which is why you’ll need to keep track of how much you eat each day as it’s important to plan ahead to avoid sudden changes in your blood sugars. One approach might be to eat about the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal or substitute carbohydrates with plant-based alternatives. A nutritionist or diabetes nurse educator can help you figure out how to include these foods in your meals.
- All people with diabetes are overweight
It’s a common myth that only overweight individuals will develop diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. While it’s true that weight can be one factor that increases a person’s risk for developing diabetes, it’s just one piece of the larger picture. People of all weights and sizes can develop diabetes. About 21.8% of type 2 diabetic patients were in their ideal body weight range. This is a result of poor eating habits. A poor diet isn’t exclusive to people who are overweight; sometimes people of normal weight may eat a diet that puts them at risk for type 2 diabetes. Other causes include little or no physical activity or eating too muchcarbohydrates, especially from simple sources like sugary drinks. Excess consumption of sugary beverages is a severe problem as over 63% of adults aged 18 or older reported drinking sugar-sweetened beverages once daily or more which is harmful as most packaged drinks contain large amounts of sugar.
- You shouldn’t exercise if you have diabetes
Some people may believe that those who have diabetes shouldn’t exercise too much as it can cause problems in terms of heart rate and breathing, but on the contrary, it is important that diabetic people get ample exercise to keep their bodies in shape. Exercise and sports play an important role in the management of diabetes as they help to lower blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of developing chronic complications. However, you’ll need to think a bit more about the type of activity you choose. For example, you should avoid overly high-intensity exercise and heavy lifting. The best types of exercise for diabetes would be activities like running, biking, aerobics, etc.
- I can’t get diabetes if no one in my family has it
Though it’s true that a family member having diabetes increases the risk of you developing diabetes, not having a family member with diabetes does not make you immune to it. Type 2 diabetes is more linked to your lifestyle habits such as your levels of physical activity and your diet. Genes don’t determine whether you’ll get diabetes for sure or not, but they can be a good indication. Type 2 diabetes can be greatly affected by the lifestyle a family lives. As you grow up and get older you learn a lot of habits from your family. If these are bad habits, the odds that you will also struggle with obesity or diabetes become much higher. Making healthy changes to your weight, diet, and exercise levels can reduce the chances of getting Type 2 diabetes and even reverse it if you already have it.
- Type 2 diabetes isn’t as serious as Type 1 diabetes
Both type 2 and type 1 diabetes are serious conditions and there is no such thing as ‘mild diabetes’. Having high blood glucose levels can lead to serious health complications, no matter whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. People with either type of diabetes are at risk for cardiac events if the condition is not well managed, as well as for other complications including eye disease and blood vessel damage. So if you have either condition, you need to take the right steps to manage it. Regular treatment and making effective lifestyle changes when living with type 2 diabetes can reduce the risk of complications, although they are still possible.
To conclude, if you have diabetes or are at risk for it, it’s important to understand whether the information you get online is accurate or not. Consult a specialist or doctor for accurate information curated for you because the circumstances will be different for everyone and to treat the root cause. In the end, the most important thing is to live a healthy lifestyle, which means adequate exercise and a balanced diet.
Candok Health Coach can provide guidance, prepare a customized diet plan, suggest basic physical activity and guide you through your journey to health and wellbeing. If you have any chronic conditions, based on the requirement, the coach will involve your treating physician to monitor and taper medications as required.
Understanding and applying Nutrition Series. Edited by Candok editorial board, Candok Lifestyle. Live Life, Naturally!
Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA) | Diabetes UK
Type 2 Diabetes Statistics and Facts
Diabetes Myths – 10 Common Diabetes Myths
Is type 2 diabetes reversible?
diabetes | Health Topics | NutritionFacts.org
Can I Get Diabetes Even If No One In The Family Has It? – ABC News
3 Fitness & Diabetes Myths You Shouldn’t Believe – Diabetes Strong
Debunking type 2 diabetes misconceptions – Merck.com
Article by Meera, A part of a student project/internship.