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Diabetes Facts and Myths

When it comes to a widespread condition like diabetes, it’s difficult to decipher the advice friends and family give from the facts. The goal of UofL Health Diabetes and Nutrition Care team, is to equip diabetes patients and their families with the most accurate information possible. Here are some common myths about diabetes that have come from patients just like you.


Myth: Diabetes is not a serious disease.

Fact: Diabetes is a growing epidemic with a devastating physical, emotional, and financial toll on the patients and even our country. It kills more Americans each year than breast cancer and HIV-AIDs combined!

Myth: "I don't really need to change my diet. I can just take pills and be ok"

Fact: Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When you are first diagnosed your pancreas still has insulin producing cells (Beta Cells) but if you don't change your eating habits and increase your activity level, then your beta cells will eventually stop working and you will need more pills or actual insulin injections.

Myth: You can catch diabetes from someone else

Fact: 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: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

Fact: Diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. However, being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and a diet high in calories from any source causes weight gain.

Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is possibly linked to type 2 diabetes. If you have a history of type 2 diabetes in your family, eating a healthy meal plan and regular exercise are recommended to help with weight loss, which can prevent type 2 diabetes

Myth: My doctor told me I have prediabetes, or “border line” diabetes, he/she wasn't too worried, though. Is that serious?

Fact: Studies are showing that when someone has a blood sugar high enough to be outside of the normal range but not high enough to diagnosed with diabetes, then they are considered prediabetic. Research has shown that without weight loss and moderate physical activity, 15% to 30% of people with pre-diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years.

Myth: To get any benefit out of exercise I will have to start working out all of the time.

Fact: Actually, any increase in any physical activity will increase the calories burned, flex some of your joints and lift your spirits. For good health improvement, you should start small and work up to 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Going to the gym is only one way to get physical activity. You could also swim, dance, hike outside, garden, play with your kids/grandkids, walk, or bike. Always discuss any exercise plans with your primary care physician.

Myth: If you have diabetes, you should stop eating starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta.

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 can be included in your meals and snacks. In addition to starchy foods, fruits, beans, milk, yogurt, and sweets are also sources of carbohydrate that you need to count in your meal plan. In our class series, our RDs teach patients how to include these foods into their meal plan.

Myth: I can take medication to prevent diabetes.

Fact: Research indicates that diabetes is best prevented by weight loss and increased physical activity. 

Myth: Everyone in my family has diabetes, so it won't matter what I do, I know I’m going to get it too.

Fact: Family history is only one of the risk factors. When your parents and other family members have diabetes and suffer from the complications and the demands of self care, you may feel like there’s no hope. Thankfully, there is hope. Being overweight or obese and inactive are the top risk factors and those two things are something that you can control. Not sure if you are overweight or obese? Calculate your BMI

Myth: When I was first diagnosed I was told I have type 2 diabetes, after 20 years I now have to take insulin. Does this make me a type 1 diabetic?  

Fact: Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, therefore if you don’t make any changes to your life to help control your blood sugar levels your pancreas will run out of insulin. This doesn’t mean you now have type 1. It just means that your body needs a little bit of help controlling your blood sugar levels.

Myth: Gestational Diabetes doesn’t need to be taken seriously since it goes away after the baby is born.

Fact: For any woman who was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, they and possibly the baby, are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Learn more during our gestational diabetes classes

Myth: People with diabetes should eat all of those expensive diabetic foods.

Fact: According to the American Diabetes Association, a healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone - low in saturated and trans fat, moderate in salt and sugar, with meal based on lean protein, non starchy vegetables, whole grains, and fruit. Diabetic and “diet” foods generally offer no “special” blood sugar lowering benefit. Most of them still contain some type of carbohydrate which will increase blood sugar levels. Sometimes these item are more expensive and could have a laxative effect if they contain too much sugar alcohol. We educate all of our patients about this in class.

Myth: Healthy foods won’t raise my blood sugar levels. Therefore, it’s ok to eat as much of them as I want to.

Fact: Whole grains and fruit are healthy foods. They contain fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals. Fruits and whole grains also contain carbohydrates. Your body will benefit from the vitamins and minerals and fiber that you can get from these foods, and they need to be worked into your meal plan. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing is still too much. Our dietitians and diabetes educators will discuss healthy limits of carbohydrate to have each day when you attend class or make an individual appointment with them.


Physician Referrals

A physician referral is required for all nutrition services to aid with billing coverage. Download a referral form to take to your physician. For additional information, please contact our office at 502-210-4203.