Diabetes Myths: Separating Facts from Fiction

Eleven million Canadians are living with diabetes or prediabetes.

When it comes to diabetes, there are many myths that get in the way of the hard facts. Here are some of the more common myths about diabetes ─ and the facts that follow may surprise you.

Myth: Having diabetes is not that serious.

Fact: Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined, and almost doubles your chance of having a heart attack. However, controlling diabetes can reduce your risks for its complications.

Myth: Overweight people eventually develop type 2 diabetes.

Fact: Being overweight is a risk factor, but family history, ethnicity, and age also play a role. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.

Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

Fact: Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease, while type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. However, research has shown that drinking sugary drinks (such as regular soda, energy and sports drinks, sweet tea, and fruit punch) is linked to type 2 diabetes. These drinks raise blood glucose and can have hundreds of calories in just one serving. A single 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 150 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrates ─ the same amount of carbs in 10 teaspoons of sugar. If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with diabetes. Portioning is important, and you should speak with your doctor.

Myth: Special diabetic foods should be eaten by people with diabetes.

Fact: People with diabetes benefit from the same healthy diet that is good for everyone else: plenty of whole grains and fruits and vegetables, with a limited amount of fat and refined sugar. Diabetic and “dietetic” foods generally offer no special benefit. Most still raise blood glucose levels, are more expensive, and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.

Myth: If you have diabetes, you should avoid starchy foods.

Fact: Starchy foods can be part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas, and corn are fine for meals and snacks. You and your doctor can determine the right amount for you.

Myth: People with diabetes are more likely to get colds and other illnesses.

Fact: You are no more likely to get a cold or another illness if you have diabetes. The one precaution here is to get annual flu shots. Any illness can make diabetes more difficult to control, and diabetics are more likely to develop serious complications.

Myth: If you have type 2 diabetes, you need to start using insulin.

Fact: For most people, type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When first diagnosed, many keep their blood glucose at a healthy level through diet and with oral medications. But over time, the body gradually produces less of its own insulin, and oral medications may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels normal.

Myth: You’ll know if you have diabetes by the symptoms.

Fact: Some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed. In fact, while 1 in 11 Americans has it, 1 in 4 adults with diabetes doesn’t know it. The following symptoms of diabetes are typical:

  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry, even though you are eating
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss, even though you are eating more (type 1)

Remember: Early detection and treatment can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes. Read more about complications at:


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  • American Diabetes Association. “Diabetes Myths”. Web. 2015.
  • Prevention.com. “7 Diabetes Myths to put to Rest Once and for All”. Web. 2016.
  • Canadian Diabetes Association. “About Diabetes”. Web. 2016.

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