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7 Diabetes Myths – The truth behind the misconceptions

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Updated August 31, 2011

7 Diabetes Myths – The truth behind the misconceptions

Portion sizes are the key to managing glucose control along with insulin and exercise.

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Diabetes Myths Explained:

There are a number of myths about diabetes that make life unnecessarily difficult for people living with type 1 diabetes. Here are seven common myths about diabetes and the truth about each one.

Myth # 1: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

Truth: Type 1 diabetes is believed to be caused by a mix of genetic, immune and possibly environmental factors. Although researchers have identified some patterns, the root cause of type 1 diabetes is still unclear. But we know for certain it is not caused by an excess intake of sugar. Having an immediate family member with type 1 diabetes also increases the risk of diabetes.

Myth # 2: Having type 1 diabetes greatly restricts the type and amount of foods you can eat, especially foods with sugar.

Truth: People with diabetes can eat virtually any food they want as long as they mindful of portion sizes. The more carbohydrates eaten, the more blood glucose will rise. Some foods raise blood sugar faster than others, according to the glycemic index. A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is the same for those without diabetes: mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats with modest amounts of salt and sugar.

Myth # 3: A person with type 1 should mostly eat sugar free foods.

Truth: Most "diabetic" and "dietetic" foods are highly processed and offer no special benefit. In fact, many "sugar-free" foods, such as pastries, cookies and other snacks, are high in fat. Most of these products will still raise blood glucose levels and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols. Your better choices are whole foods that have not been processed because they provide more nutrients.

Myth # 4: Taking insulin cures diabetes.

Truth: People with type 1 diabetes take insulin because their pancreas no longer makes enough insulin to keep their body functioning properly. Without their daily injections they would not be able to live. So insulin is a needed medicine, but it is not a cure. There is progress toward finding a cure but to date there is no cure for diabetes.

Myth # 5: Only children get type 1 diabetes.

Truth: Though the majority of those diagnosed with type 1 are children and adolescents, anyone can develop type 1 diabetes at any age. But increasing numbers of children and teens are also being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (where the body still makes some insulin) due to the epidemic of obesity among young people today.

Myth # 6: Eventually every person with type 1 will get health complications from having diabetes.

Truth: It is true that the longer you have diabetes the greater the risk of having one or more complications that affect your heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys or nerves. But complications are not inevitable. Long-term studies have conclusively shown that keeping blood sugar levels in tight control can significantly reduce the risk of developing complications. Though there is no guarantee, good glucose control is your best weapon for fighting future complications.

Myth # 7: People with diabetes can feel when their blood sugar levels go high or low.

Truth: Though the extremes of blood sugar swings from low (hypoglycemia) to high (hyperglycemia) can be felt to some degree, you do not want to rely on your bodily sensations alone to manage your diabetes. The only reliable way to know what your blood sugar is at any given time is to check your blood glucose on a regular basis, especially before eating and insulin injections. One of the complications that can diminish your ability to sense low blood sugar is a condition called hypoglycemia unawareness. If your blood glucose is chronically high you can lose your ability to sense when your blood sugar goes low.
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