Diabetes myths: Sweet illusions?

Misconceptions are a diabetic's worst enemy


The number of people being diagnosed with diabetes is on the rise. And so are the myths surrounding the condition.

These myths make it difficult for people to believe some of the hard facts and create a picture of diabetes that is not accurate, which could be harmful for them.

Here, we help you break some common misbeliefs to help you manage diabetes better.

1. Diabetes is not a serious disease

You cannot afford to take diabetes lightly. But this doesn’t mean that life comes to an end once you are diagnosed with it.

In fact, I suggest that you don’t wait to get diagnosed with diabetes, to take it seriously. This is especially true for people who are at high risk of developing diabetes.

People who have a genetic propensity, are overweight, follow a sedentary lifestyle and are suffering from hypertension should not wait for diabetes to be diagnosed and then take control measures.

Such individuals should begin screening themselves from the age of 30 – 35 to know where they stand. Any abnormality that shows up in the tests should not be ignored and professional advice should be sought immediately.

2. If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type-2 diabetes

Not necessarily. Most overweight people never develop type-2 diabetes. But obese individuals are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, especially if they also posses other risk factors.

It is important that these people get themselves checked regularly and keep their weight in control to avoid further implications.

3. Eating too much sugar causes diabetes

Well, in that case, eating anything in excess is harmful. Sugar does not directly cause diabetes, but it may increase your weight and put you at a risk of developing it.

Based on their glycaemic index [GI], sugars are of different types and you need to eat the right kind to stay healthy. Sweets that we consume are generally high in calories, which is not good for the body.

So, a diet high in calories, whether from sugar or from fat, can contribute to weight gain. It is advised to opt for low GI foods that contain fructose such as fruits. But in all cases, moderation is the key—eating too much of good is also bad.

Diabetics should plan their meals based on the number of calories they need. They should spread the number of calories they consume across their meals. Ideally, a diabetic should consult a qualified nutritionist and get a meal plan that’s tailored for them.

Moreover, along with proper diet, it is important to do regular exercise, reduce stress levelsand have a positive outlook towards life.

4. People with diabetes should completely eliminate starchy foods like rice and potato from their diet

Even if you are diagnosed with diabetes, there is no need to completely eliminate anything from your diet.

What you presently eat—the type and quality, your activity and stress levels and your weight will primarily determine number of calories you need, which will be the basis for your diet plan. Control and moderation are the key words.

5. People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods

The diet for people with diabetes is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone—low in fat [especially saturated and trans fat], moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on whole grain foods, vegetables and fruit. There is no need to go for special foods as just small modifications in your current diet will do the trick for you.

6. Once I start insulin, I will have to continue it for lifetime. Also, using insulin means that you’re body is not functioning properly

No, that’s not true in all cases. Doctors suggest insulin only when there’s absolute need for it. For example, if you have uncontrolled diabetes, then routine medicines will not immediately work for you to bring the levels down.

In this case, the doctors will have to use insulin to first bring the sugar levels down. They may then put you on medication to keep it in control.

In some people, insulin is introduced when some medicines are found ineffective or when they have to undergo surgery and the sugar levels have to be kept under strict control.

But in most cases, this is only for a short period of time. If you are careful about following a healthy lifestyle, then you can control and manage your diabetes even without medications.

7. Diabetes gets cured after some years

It may go for a short period of time. But diabetes is a multi-factorial condition. So, if you do not follow a proper routine and lifestyle, there are high chances that it may come back. You need to continue to follow the basic rules of diet, exercise and regular monitoring.

8. Once I begin to take medicines to control sugar, my diabetes will always be under control and I won’t have to visit the doctor

Taking medicines does not eliminate the need for regular monitoring and consulting the doctor. In fact, the need increases because the doctor will need to evaluate how your body is responding to the medicines and will accordingly alter the dosage.

As told to Ashwini Ranade

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Sudhindra Kulkarni
Dr Sudhindra Kulkarni, MD, DM, is a consulting endocrinologist at Fortis Hospitals, Mulund, Mumbai.


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