Remember Zeus, Athena and Medusa? The mythological stories we learned as schoolchildren entertained and thrilled us, but we knew from the start that they were pure fantasy. Diabetes myths, however, are believed by many and can lead to inappropriate treatment choices and behaviors.
Here are some of the many myths about diabetes that still circulate today:
Type 2 diabetes is not as serious as type 1
False. Type 1 and type 2 may differ in the way they develop in the body, but if neglected, both can lead to devastating complications such as heart attack, stroke, sexual dysfunction, nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, amputation and even death. Both types are serious and require full attention.
Eating sweets causes diabetes.
False. Being a chocoholic doesn’t mean that you are destined to develop diabetes. It is speculated that type 1 is caused by heredity and certain environmental factors not yet clearly understood by experts. On the other hand, lifestyle, obesity, heredity and age play a part in developing type 2. Sweets may cause cavities and unwanted weight gain, but they don’t cause diabetes.
People who have diabetes must avoid sugar
False. Recent studies show that sugar and sugar-containing treats can be enjoyed, in reasonable amounts, without negatively affecting diabetes control. One study published in the February 2001 issue of Diabetes Care found that individuals who consumed 10 percent of their total energy as added sugar or sweets ate significantly less carbohydrate, starch and calories than the group that was forbidden to eat sweets. Avoiding sugar is not necessary—limiting it is.
No matter what you do, you will develop complications
False. With good diabetes care and regular medical checkups, you can avoid or delay complications associated with diabetes such as blindness, kidney disease and neuropathy. If you maintain a healthy body weight, stay physically active and keep your blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels within a healthy range, you will lower your risk of having complications from diabetes.
If your blood glucose results are high, you’ve done something wrong
False. Even if you do everything right—exercise, follow a good meal plan, test regularly and take your medication—your blood glucose level may refuse to behave. Diabetes is not an easy disease to manage. One day will be fine, another more challenging. Glucose levels can be affected by stress, developing infections, hormonal swings, even the start of a cold or flu. Your body changes as you age, and so does your diabetes. A treatment plan that worked flawlessly 5 years ago may no longer be right for you today. Fortunately, new treatment options have been developed. If you have difficulty maintaining good diabetes control, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider and ask about the innovative products that are now available. Also, schedule a “diabetes refresher course” with your certified diabetes educator.
Don’t waste your time and take risks with myths. Ignore those crazy gods of Mount Olympus and base your diabetes decisions on the information that you get from Diabetes Health, diabetes.org, Joslin.org and other reliable sources.