Common myths about diabetes

There are many myths about diabetes that are often reported as facts. Here’s the truth behind some of the common myths and misconceptions you may have heard.

Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.

FACT: Eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system accidentally attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, progresses when insulin-producing cells are unable to produce enough insulin, or when the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly (ie insulin resistance).

Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Following a healthy eating plan and exercising regularly will help you manage your diabetes and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Myth: It is possible to have ‘a touch of’ diabetes.

FACT: There is no such thing as ‘a touch of’ diabetes. However, you may be diagnosed with pre-diabetes, which means that your blood glucose and insulin levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. If you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes making lifestyle changes, like improving your diet, becoming more active and quitting smoking can help slow down development of type 2 diabetes.

Myth: People with type 2 diabetes who need insulin therapy later go on to develop type 1 diabetes.

FACT: Insulin therapy is used in the management of type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. If you have type 1 diabetes you need to take insulin to survive. If you have type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes you may or may not need to start taking insulin after a period of time to help maintain your blood glucose levels within a healthy range. If you have type 2 diabetes and need to take insulin this does not mean that you’ve developed type 1 diabetes.

Myth: People with diabetes need to follow a ‘special diabetic diet’.

FACT: There is no such thing as a ‘diabetic diet’. Just like everyone, if you are living with diabetes you will benefit from eating a healthy diet that includes a wide variety of foods – including fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fibre and healthy protein. It’s recommended that everyone, with or without diabetes, follow the healthy eating recommendations as per the Australian Dietary Guidelines, as appropriate for their age, gender and activity levels.

Myth: Diabetes is not a serious condition.

FACT: Diabetes is a chronic condition with the potential for serious long-term health implications. People living with type 1 diabetes need to manage their blood glucose levels via regular insulin injections, while management of type 2 diabetes may involve a range of measures including lifestyle changes, oral medications and insulin.

If you have either type of diabetes and your blood glucose levels stay above a healthy range over a long period of time you are at risk of developing serious complications such as vision loss, kidney failure, nerve damage and heart disease.

Myth: People with diabetes can’t play sport.

FACT: Physical activity is important for everyone to help support overall health and wellbeing, as well as to reduce the risk of chronic disease. Exercise is especially important for people living with diabetes as it can support diabetes management by:

  • Helping to lower blood glucose levels,
  • Increasing insulin sensitivity,
  • Reducing the need for medication and
  • Helping to maintain a healthy weight and healthy heart.

Myth: People who are living with diabetes can always feel when their blood glucose levels go too low.

FACT: This is not always the case. Some people who are living with diabetes don’t know when their blood glucose level has dropped below a healthy range and this can be dangerous. If you find it difficult to recognise the signs and symptoms that your blood glucose levels are too high or too low, it’s important to discuss this with your diabetes team.

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