By Diane Hwang
In 2020, the CDC released a report on diabetes in America that presented statistics on “the state of the disease.” The results were fascinating; about 34.2 million Americans — nearly 1 in 10 — were living with diabetes, and about 88 million American adults had some form of prediabetes.
With so many Americans living with some form of this condition, you might think that diabetes has “gone mainstream,” and that the public at large has a better understanding of the disease. But unfortunately, that still is not the case.
Even today, there are still many who believe a variety of diabetes myths. Let’s bust these myths today so you and your loved ones can better understand this complicated illness.
Myth #1: Does Eating Sugar Cause Diabetes?
This is one of the most common diabetes myths we hear — and if you’ve been living with diabetes for a while, you’ve probably heard it too. Unfortunately, too many people hear the term “high blood sugar” and assume you ate too much candy. This is far from the truth!
This myth comes from a misunderstanding of how diabetes affects the body: this disease impacts the body’s ability to make insulin. Insulin functions as a gatekeeper in your cells, allowing glucose from the foods you eat into the cells for use as energy. However, when your body doesn’t produce insulin, the glucose has nowhere to go. This results in the high blood sugars that are dangerous to diabetics.
Myth #2: Does Eating Fast Food Cause Diabetes?
Just like diabetes myth number one, this myth comes from a misunderstanding of how diabetes develops. In this case, it comes from the fact that obesity is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Because of this risk, many people assume that obese individuals will inevitably develop diabetes. However, this fails to account for many other risk factors: age, race, activity level, and (perhaps most importantly) genetics and family history.
As an example, about 69% of American adults are overweight — but only 10% of Americans adults are diabetic. The discrepancy in those numbers should make it clear that weight and diabetes are not directly related, but this myth persists in the public consciousness.
Myth #3: Is All Diabetes the Same Disease?
If you meet someone who’s unfamiliar with diabetes, he or she probably thinks of it as one serious disease (and if they believe this, they probably also believe the other prevalent diabetes myths: that the disease is caused by too much sugar or fast food).
The fact is that diabetes is nuanced, with a variety of types that can affect the body in different ways. This is precisely why the different types of diabetes are labeled as such! Type 1 diabetes, which is often diagnosed in childhood, is vastly different from Type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is vastly different from Type 1 and Type 2. Assuming that all diabetics have the same condition — and therefore, need the same treatment — is incorrect.
Myth #4: Do Diabetics “Just Know” When Their Sugar is High or Low?
This is one of the most dangerous diabetes myths out there — and unfortunately, it’s the one that too many diabetics seem to believe. Of course, we understand why this myth has persisted: after years of managing your diabetes well, you start to feel confident that you understand your body intuitively. However, a lax approach to diabetes management can lead to disaster.
Why is this diabetes myth dangerous? Because when someone thinks they “just know” the signs of low or high blood sugar, they usually choose to treat the condition without testing first. Let’s say that someone does know their symptoms of high or low blood sugar very well. This can help them gauge when they need to treat their diabetes with insulin or glucose, but it will not tell them how much they need. This can result in potentially dangerous side effects.
Make sure you and your loved ones understand the truth behind these myths so you can manage your diabetes safely. Work with your primary care physician for help managing your health. For help simplifying and managing your day-to-day with diabetes, explore OKRA Care’s learning resources, and consider adding our subscription care kits to your care plan.