Over 400 million people worldwide have diabetes, and the prevalence is growing. The most recent statics, for 2016, show it as the seventh leading cause of death overall. But in the year 2000, diabetes didn’t even make the top 10 causes. Learn the difference between diabetes myths and the facts about this serious disease.
Only obese people get diabetes.
Myth: Diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin production in the body and insulin resistance. Nearly 12% of people that have diabetes in the United States are of normal weight or moderately overweight, not obese. Children and some adults can develop Type 1 diabetes, and pregnant women can develop gestational diabetes, regardless of their weight. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, but it is not the only cause.
People with diabetes can’t eat sugar.
Myth: Many foods contain some sugar. Our bodies need glucose, a form of sugar, for energy. Because people with diabetes have problems with too little or unusable insulin, their bodies can’t convert sugar into energy properly. Insulin is the hormone that changes sugar from food into energy. Many people with diabetes inject insulin into their bodies to help process the sugars they eat. To avoid overwhelming their system, people with diabetes eat less sugar than the average person and generally avoid high sugar foods.
All people with diabetes must inject insulin.
Myth: While this is true for Type 1 diabetes, not everyone with diabetes needs insulin. People with diabetes whose insulin resistance isn’t too high and who control their diet may still be able to process the sugars they eat. Some people can manage their blood sugar levels through diet and exercise or by taking oral medications.
Diabetes leads to other health problems.
Fact: High sugar levels in the body can damage nerves and vital organs. Diabetes can lead to circulation and nerve damage in the arms and legs, which may result in sores that don’t heal and the need for amputation. This process can also cause blindness. Diabetes can cause kidney damage leading to the need for dialysis and may even contribute to dementia. People with diabetes work to control their sugar levels through diet and by taking insulin.
There is more than one type of diabetes.
Fact: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects children, although adults can develop it too. In Type 1 diabetes, the body attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin, leaving people with a life-long shortage. Insulin is required to manage Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a combination of genetics and the environment. It causes the body to become resistant to insulin to the point where the body can’t produce enough to process sugars. Other types of diabetes include gestational during pregnancy, secondary caused by another disease, and steroid-induced from long term steroid use. There are also variations within Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and distinctions between childhood and adult diabetes.
You can prevent diabetes.
Partially True: Scientists don’t know exactly what triggers the body to destroy insulin-producing cells or increase insulin resistance. But there are known risk factors, especially for Type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight through a diet that’s low in sugar reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Exercise also lowers the risk. Quitting smoking helps too. People with high blood pressure and high cholesterol can develop diabetes, so staying healthy and maintaining good blood pressure and cholesterol levels decrease the risk of developing diabetes and other diseases. Even small changes to your weight through diet and exercise can make a big difference for your risk factor.