Five myths about diabetes that need busting

Monday, 28 February 2022

There’s so many myths and half-truths when it comes to diabetes. Below we look at some of the most common to sort the facts from the fiction.

 

Myth: I can’t eat fruit when I have diabetes.

Fact: Fruit does contain the fruit sugar, fructose, but it is full of vitamins, fibre and phytochemicals (good things) so there is no reason at all to avoid it. Health authorities recommend adults eat two serves (150g each) of fruit every day. Research has shown fruit reduces the incidence of some cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

There’s no reason to avoid carbohydrate (carb), but learning to recognise foods high in carb and knowing how they affect your blood glucose level is helpful. Check out our Events page for Carb SMART or talk to your Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Even if you choose to follow a very low carbohydrate diet, make sure you have two serves of low carb fruit every day.

 

Myth: If my doctor puts me on insulin my type 2 diabetes has turned into type 1 diabetes.

Fact: No. If your doctor has changed your medication to insulin it means you have type 2 diabetes treated with insulin. If you have type 2 diabetes you usually start treatment with lifestyle modifications – eating healthier and regular exercise – as you have insulin resistance. As you age your type 2 diabetes progresses, your pancreas which initially works extra hard then becomes exhausted, so the doctor will step you through a variety of medication classes including different tablets, non-insulin injectables and, eventually, insulin. Currently 67% of people living with type 2 diabetes use insulin.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where the body’s own immune response destroys the cells that produce insulin. The treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin from the first day of diagnosis.

If you aren’t sure what type of diabetes you have, ask your general practitioner or endocrinologist. For more information about your medications, talk to your general practitioner, credentialled diabetes educator or pharmacist.

 

Myth: I can have lots of chocolate and red wine for antioxidants.

Fact: Chocolate and red wine do contain various classes of antioxidants, providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which have a protective effect against some degenerative conditions. While they are rich in polyphenols, chocolate is also high in saturated fat, which can lead to clogged arteries, heart disease and some cancers, and the alcohol in red wine can lead to fatty liver, liver cancer, and brain damage. Having these foods only in small quantities sometimes is recommended if you do choose them.

If you want lots of antioxidants without these drawbacks then eat more fruit and vegetables, particularly brightly coloured varieties. They are full of antioxidants and other health-giving substances, including phytochemicals.

Talk to your accredited practising dietitian for more information on health giving foods.

 

Myth: I can cure my diabetes by avoiding carbs.

Fact: Many foods high in nourishment also include carbohydrates. Some people choose to reduce their intake of carbs so they have smaller or fewer fluctuations in blood glucose or for weight loss. However, be aware that the body will make glucose from your own stores of fat and protein if it has to – the body, particularly the brain, prefers to use glucose as a fuel. And many foods which are high in carbohydrates such as grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, milk and yoghurt, and legumes, contain lots of fibre, vitamins, minerals and health-giving nutrients.

If you do want to cut back on carbs, consider reducing those ‘sometimes’ foods – chocolate, lollies, cakes, biscuits, soft drink, cordial, sports drinks, take away foods, and savoury snacks such as chips. Cutting these out completely is often very difficult to do in the long term. So, consider having these ‘sometimes’ foods in small quantities, sometimes.

Unfortunately, type 2 diabetes cannot be cured (yet). Research has shown it is possible to go into remission in the first five or so years after diagnosis by achieving significant weight loss, healthy eating and regular physical activity. Remission is defined as having a HbA1c below 6.5% for at least three months in the absence of glucose-lowering medications. However, remission doesn’t guarantee the diabetes doesn’t return. You should always keep up your regular annual cycle of care checks for diabetes even if you are in remission.

Once again, talk to your general practitioner and accredited practising dietitian for more information on achieving significant weight loss.

 

Myth: I can eat what I want as long as I exercise for 30 minutes each day.

Fact: Sorry, it doesn’t work quite like that. Exercise is great for everyone and we should move as much as possible. In fact, we should try to do cardiovascular exercise to keep our heart and lungs fit, resistance exercise to maintain our muscle tissue and strength, and balance and stretching exercises to prevent falls and stay limber.

However, 30 minutes of exercise each day will not necessarily burn up the kilojoules you may eat if you eat whatever you want! For example, a slice of iced chocolate cake can take an average man 65 minutes of push ups to burn up. How long can you do push ups for? Not that long? How about if you ate 150g (a bowl) of hot chips? The energy (kilojoules) in those can take an average woman 31 minutes of jumping jacks to burn.

They say its hard to out train a bad diet and ‘they’ are right this time. Eat healthy most of the time. Enjoy ‘sometimes’ foods in small amounts sometimes – and make sure you do enjoy them. And stay active every day, in every way you can.

Your accredited exercise physiologist and accredited practising dietitian can give you plenty of hints on diet and physical activity.

 

What if you can’t get on to your own general practitioner/ diabetes educator/ dietitian/ podiatrist/ exercise physiologist and need the answer to a general question? Who ya gonna call? No, not Ghostbusters – call our contact centre on 1300 342 238 and ask to speak to a health professional.

 

By Dale Cooke APD

Join our community of over 45,000 people living with diabetes