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Myths and facts about diabetes

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There are many misconceptions about diabetes, including its causes and how to manage it. In recognition of National Diabetes Awareness Month, this article will address some popularly held beliefs about diabetes that may not mesh with reality.

Myth: Eating sugar (or too much sugar) causes diabetes.
Fact: There are many causes of diabetes, but eating sugar is not one of them. Type 1 diabetes, in which the pancreas does not produce the insulin needed to transport glucose to the body’s cells, is caused by genetics and other factors we haven’t discovered yet (some research suggests viruses are the culprit). Type 2 diabetes may be caused by genetics as well, or a host of lifestyle factors. Sugar intake alone is not enough to cause diabetes.

Myth: Going “sugar free” will prevent me from developing diabetes.
Fact: While there is no question that most Americans eat too much sugar, there is no research that supports going “sugar free” results in being diabetes free. Given that the American diet is high in added sugars, most health care providers agree that keeping an eye on the amount of added sugars we consume leads to better general wellness.

Myth: People with diabetes cannot eat pasta, rice or desserts and have to eat special food.
Fact: While individuals with diabetes may be more conscious of foods that raise their blood sugar levels, they can enjoy any kind of food they’d like in moderation. Healthy eating plans for people with diabetes are typically the same as most health professionals would recommend for anyone else:

  • Low in saturated fats
  • Heart-healthy fats and fiber
  • Moderate in salt and sugar
  • Lean sources of protein
  • Fruit and non-starchy vegetables
  • Whole grains such as brown rice and oats

People with diabetes—like everyone else—should enjoy dessert such as chocolate and other sweets in moderation. The key to good blood sugar control is to follow a sensible eating plan: keep an eye on portions, lead an active lifestyle and be compliant with medications.

Myth: Getting diabetes means never leading a healthy life.
Fact: There is a difference between living with diabetes and living with well-controlled diabetes. When individuals with diabetes manage their condition properly, for example avoiding spikes and drops in blood sugar levels, they can prevent or delay other complications of the disease. Having a positive relationship with food and knowing how much of what to eat, being physically active, seeking the support of others, keeping up with doctor visits, managing stress and controlling blood sugar levels are key to leading a healthy life with diabetes. These recommendations are what everyone else could benefit from as well!

What other myths have you hear about diabetes? Send us your comments!

For more information about diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org

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