4 Common Diabetes Myths Debunked

There are a lot of myths about diabetes that can really affect the way people think about the disease. Some of the most prevalent diabetes myths stigmatise the condition, which can make you feel like you did something wrong if you have this health issue. The stress of managing a chronic condition (going to nonstop doctor appointments, trying new medications, dealing with symptoms) can be really demoralising, even without the added weight of judgment about your health.

To help push back against these misperceptions, we have gathered four most common diabetes myths that we hear, along with the truth behind the myths as well.

Myth #1: You can only develop diabetes if you’re overweight

The vast majority of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. And while weight is one factor in developing type 2 diabetes, people can have type 2 diabetes at any weight.

Being overweight is associated with insulin resistance, which can cause type 2 diabetes if your blood sugar remains excessively high. Although body mass index (BMI) is not a good measure of individual health, research shows there’s a correlation between having a higher BMI and developing type 2 diabetes. The reason for this isn’t fully understood, but one reason could be that some people with a higher BMI have more visceral fat. Visceral fat affects hormone regulation and having more visceral fat is associated with insulin resistance. But having a higher BMI doesn’t guarantee you’ll get diabetes, and there are people with lower BMIs who do have diabetes.

Myth #2: You can never eat sugar or carbs if you have diabetes

If you have diabetes and have received a disapproving stare from someone when you order dessert, then you may have experienced the blowback from this myth. There is no reason that you have to cut everything out. It all comes down to balance.

In order to avoid diabetes-related complications, you will need to keep your blood sugar levels within a target range that’s specific to you. For example, if you have type 2 diabetes and sugar builds up in your blood, then you may develop hyperglycemia, or dangerously high blood sugar. Over time high blood sugar levels can raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other complications.

Although you don’t need to completely avoid eating carbohydrates or sugar if you have diabetes, you may need to make some dietary changes to keep your blood sugar levels in your recommended range. For example, your doctor or dietitian may recommend that you choose complex carbohydrates over refined carbohydrates when possible, like opting for whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Your body breaks all carbohydrates down into glucose (sugar) and uses it for energy. But complex carbohydrates take longer to break down, meaning your blood sugars rise more slowly.

Myth #3: Insulin is actually harmful

Insulin helps keep your blood sugar low by moving sugar from your bloodstream into your cells. And maintaining a healthy blood sugar is one aspect of decreasing your chances of developing other health conditions such as heart disease. However, some people mistakenly believe that insulin can make your diabetes worse.

Insulin is the recommended treatment for most people with type 1 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes generally take other medications rather than insulin at first but may need to eventually take insulin in the long term.

It’s true that, like any medication, insulin can come with side effects and potential risks. Insulin therapy can also cause issues like trouble breathing, muscle cramps, and constipation. If you accidentally take too much insulin or your doctor prescribes you a higher dose than what you need, then you may develop low blood sugar. When this happens, you might feel fatigued, irritable, shaky, or confused. Generally, doctors start by giving you low doses of insulin and gradually increasing your medication to avoid this happening.

Myth #4: You can cure diabetes

You may have seen advertisements for products that claim to cure diabetes, but in reality diabetes is a chronic disease. In other words, there is no diabetes cure.

But you can successfully manage your condition and even achieve remission with the right treatment plan. Some people with type 1 diabetes may lower their blood sugar to a nondiabetic range when they’re not currently taking any drugs after they’ve already been on medication for a while. However, this remission isn’t generally sustainable because their body eventually won’t be able to produce insulin on its own.

With type 2 diabetes, you may be able to achieve very long periods of remission when your blood sugar levels reach a nondiabetic range without using medications.