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15 Myths about Type 2 Diabetes

This November, during National Diabetes Awareness Month, we want to do a little MYTH BUSTING!! 

Last year (2010) we posted 6 myths about type 2 diabetes from an article in SELF/Nutrition Data. Well, it’s a new year and we ‘ve got some more myths to add to our list that need a little busting.

15 Myths about Type 2 Diabetes


diabetes.jpgNovember is Diabetes Awareness Month and with the number of adults and children with Type 2 Diabetes growing every year, I think we’ve all become more aware of this condition than we used to be.  Nonetheless, myths and misunderstandings about this largely preventable condition abound.

Myth 1: Diabetes is not that serious of a disease.

Fact: Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.  Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.


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

Fact:  Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role. Unfortunately, too many people disregard the other risk factors for diabetes and think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes.  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 3: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes. 

Fact: No, it does not.  Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease; type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors.  Being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories, whether from sugar or from fat, can contribute to weight gain.  If you have a history of diabetes in your family, eating a healthy meal plan and regular exercise are recommended to manage your weight.


Myth 4: People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods.

Fact: A healthy meal plan 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.  Diabetic and “dietetic” foods generally offer no special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose levels, are usually more expensive, and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.


Myth 5: If you have diabetes, you should only eat small amounts of starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta. 

Fact: Starchy foods are part of a healthy meal plan.  What is important is the portion size.  Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas and corn can be included in your meals and snacks.  The key is portions.  For most people with diabetes, having 3-4 servings of carbohydrate-containing foods is about right.  Whole grain starchy foods are also a good source of fiber, which helps keep your gut healthy.


Myth 6: People with diabetes can’t eat sweets or chocolate.

Fact: If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with diabetes.  They are no more “off limits” to people with diabetes than they are to people without diabetes. 


Myth 7: You can catch diabetes from someone else.

Fact: No.  Although we don’t know exactly why some people develop diabetes, we know diabetes is not contagious.  It can’t be caught like a cold or flu.  There seems to be some genetic link in diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes.  Lifestyle factors also play a part.


Myth 8:  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.  However, people with diabetes are advised to get flu shots. This is because any illness can make diabetes more difficult to control, and people with diabetes who do get the flu are more likely than others to go on to develop serious complications.


Myth 9: If you have type 2 diabetes and your doctor says you need to start using insulin, it means you’re failing to take care of your diabetes properly.

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


Myth 10:   If I’m diabetic, I shouldn’t eat fruit.

It’s true that fruit contains carbohydrates and can affect blood sugar. But fruit can be a very healthy part of your diet, even if you are diabetic. Fruit contains valuable nutrients and fiber and has a milder effect on blood sugar than other types of sweets.  A healthy diabetic meal plan should contain two or three servings of whole fruit each day. Whole fruit is a better choice than processed fruits like applesauce, fruit cocktail, dried fruits, or fruit juice.


Myth 11:  Diabetics only need to pay attention to carbohydrates, not protein or fat.Limiting carbohydrates will help keep your blood sugar levels in check but it’s also important to be sure that your total calorie intake is appropriate.  Eating too much protein or fat can lead to weight gain, which can accelerate diabetes.  Diabetics also have an increased risk of heart disease, so watching your saturated fat intake is also important. 

Myth 12:   Diabetics should eat a low carbohydrate diet.

Up until 1994, the American Diabetes Association recommended a diet of about 60% carbohydrates for all Type 2 diabetics. Some diabetics can achieve good blood sugar control on this type of diet. However, many studies have shown that low-carbohydrate and/or low-glycemic diets can be very effective in helping diabetics lose (or maintain) weight and improving insulin sensitivity.  The ADA now acknowledges that lower carbohydrate diets may be helpful in some patients and recommends that diets be individualized.  Read more about the glycemic index.


Myth 13:   All Type 2 diabetics need to take insulin or other anti-diabetic drugs for life.

Not so!  Even if you are currently using insulin or anti-diabetic medications to manage your Type 2 diabetes, you may be able to reduce or even eliminate your need for drugs by losing weight, exercising, and sticking to your diet plan. (No-one should discontinue any medications without consulting their physician).


Myth 14:  If I’m using insulin or antidiabetic medications, I can eat what I want.

Taking medications is not a substitute for eating right, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight.  Do everything you can to manage your diabetes with healthy lifestyle habits–even if you are taking diabetes medication. The medications will work better, you’ll need to take less of them, and you’ll stay healthier in the long run.


Myth 15:  People with “prediabetes” (or a family history of Type 2 diabetes) always eventually end up with full-blown Type 2 diabetes.

Not at all. If your doctor has told you that your blood sugar levels are “borderline” or that you have “prediabetes,” this is a wake-up call!  Get serious about losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and exercising and you can very likely avoid developing diabetes.  Having a family history of Type 2 diabetes also doesn’t mean that you will also get the disease. You’re in control!


If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes and are interested in preventing the developing of type 2 diabetes, a member of our nutrition team would like to speak with you! Click here for a free session!

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