Common diabetes myths
Eating sugar causes diabetes
People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods
If you do not need to take medicine, you only have 'mild' diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is more serious than type 2
When people with type 2 diabetes begin insulin therapy, they are in the 'final stages' of diabetes
Common diabetes myths
Eating sugar causes diabetes and type 1 diabetes is more serious than type 2. According to a new report from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), these are two of the most commonly occurring global myths in relation to diabetes.
Myths can be defined as widely held but false beliefs. They are often passed from generation to generation and may contain elements of the truth. However in relation to diabetes, some can act as barriers to effective self-care.
For the past year, the IDF's consultative section on diabetes education (DECS) has been collecting diabetes myths from around the world. Some of the most common ones they have come across are:
- Eating sugar causes diabetes
Diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The sugar myth may have evolved due to the fact that being overweight increases a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. According to the IDF, the association between sugar consumption and the development of diabetes is more likely to arise from 'simple confusion', rather than a partial understanding of the causes of diabetes.
-People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods
It is widely believed that people with diabetes can only consume foodstuffs that are specifically produced for people with the condition, such as 'diabetic' chocolate and sugar-free jelly. According to the IDF, the recommended healthy diet for diabetics is the same as for people who do not have diabetes - low in fat, salt and sugar, plenty of fruit and vegetables etc. 'Special' foods offer no special benefit. Furthermore they are usually more expensive and can have a laxative effect.
People do not need to spend money on 'special diabetic' chocolate
-If you do not need to take medicine, you only have 'mild' diabetes
According to the IDF, one of the most popular and dangerous misconceptions is that diabetes is only serious if insulin is required. However the complications of diabetes can occur whether or not insulin therapy is required. The IDF also warns that some medical professionals perpetuate this myth, putting people at an increased risk of complications. "If a person does not believe their diabetes is serious, they are less likely to take adequate measures to manage the condition."
-Type 1 diabetes is more serious than type 2
This myth is also widespread and its origin is historic. Before the discovery of insulin in 1922, the diagnosis of type 1 signified certain death within months. And while all people with type 1 require insulin to survive, it is possible to control type 2 without insulin. However a person may have type 2 for months or years before diagnosis, therefore serious complications, such as eye damage or kidney failure, may have already developed, making it more serious than type 1 in certain cases.
-When people with type 2 diabetes begin insulin therapy, they are in the 'final stages' of diabetes
Many people with type 2 diabetes will develop the need for insulin therapy. According to the IDF, with the correct self-care, a healthy diet and active lifestyle, people with diabetes can live full and 'normal' lives, whether they have type 1 or 2.
This report is published in the IDF magazine, Diabetes Voice.