Myth 1: Sugar Causes Diabetes
This is only true if the empty kilojoules in sugary drinks and snacks leads to unhealthy weight.
Carrying excess weight increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, says dietitian Karissa Woolfe from Diabetes NSW.
“The human body and brain are designed to run on glucose (from sugars), so it’s a muth that we should avoid all sugars,” she explains. “Low-GI fruit, legumes, healthy grains and milk are the best forms of sugar to include in a balanced eating plan for anyone.”
Myth 2: If You Don't Need Insulin, Diabetes Is Not That Serious
Diabetes is serious, even if not managed with insulin therapy, because it increases the risk of developing serious complications including heart disease, kidney damage, amputation and blindness.
“Believing you have a ‘mild’ case of diabetes is the same as thinking you might be ‘a little bit’ pregnant, says Woolfe.
“The condition is progressive, and its management will change over time but lifestyle strategies do help.”
Myth 3: You Don't Need A Diabetes Test If You're Slim And Fit
Being overweight boosts your diabetes risks, but it’s not the only risk factor. Slim people can develop type 2 diabetes, especially those who are over 40, have a family history of diabetes or smoke.
Woolfe says every adult should know their own risk profile and see their GP for testing, “Diabetes Australia has an online self-assessment tool to help you get started,” she asks.
Myth 4: People With Diabetes Need To Follow A Special Diet Forever
There is no such thing as a ‘diabetic diet’. “Healthy eating to manage any type of diabetes simply means enjoying balanced nutritious meals across your day, in the right amount for your need. So, dessert can be on the menu, as can most foods in moderation,” says Woolfe.
People with well-managed diabetes are generally more discerning about what they eat and drink but there’s no evidence that one food plan will suit everyone.
“A dietitian can formulate an eating plan that suits their tastebuds, lifestyle and diabetes plan,” she adds.
Myth 5: Diabetes Is All About Diet — Exercise Doesn't Make Much Difference
“Being active is a key ingredient in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes because, as well as promotion weight control, it also helps move excess glucose from the bloodstream into cells where it can be used for energy,” says diabetes educator Dr Kirstene Bell.
“Every minute of extra activity can help reduce the risk.”
Myth 6: People With Diabetes Can't Drink Alcohol
There’s actually evidence that light to moderate drinking can protect women (but not men) from diabetes.
Even if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, that doesn’t mean you can’t have alcohol at all. “Drinking in moderation can have positive health benefits, but we recommend no more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day for men and no more than one for women, with at least two alcohol-free days per week,” advises Dr Bell.
Myth 7: If You Have Insulin Resistance, You'll Definitely Get Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin resistance, where your body no longer responds to insulin as effectively as it should, might mean you’re at high risk of a diabetes diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it.
“Simple changes life modifying your diet, increasing your exercise and giving up smoking can slow or even reverse the progression of insulin resistance,” says Woolfe.
Text: Bauer/Good Health