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Diabetes – Myths and Truths

Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension

 

Diabetes is becoming more and more prevalent in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults have diabetes. That is equivalent to one in every 12 Americans! Most of us know someone with diabetes. Here are some myths and the corresponding truth about the disease to help us understand it better.

 

Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
Truth: In fact, diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Being overweight and having a family history of diabetes both increase the risk for the disease.

 

Myth: People with diabetes can’t eat sweets or chocolate.
Truth: Diabetes affects one’s ability to digest and use carbohydrates, so people with this disease can manage their eating plan to fit in a moderate amount of treats at a meal or snack. It does take planning and involves substituting this for another, healthier alternative such as whole grain bread or fruit.

 

Myth: A person with diabetes should only eat small amounts of starchy foods, like bread, potatoes and pasta.
Truth: First, “small amounts” is relative. But starches in foods, also known as complex carbohydrates, are broken down to glucose by the body. Someone with diabetes has trouble utilizing this glucose, but it is the human body’s best source for fuel for energy to function. So some carbohydrates are needed. Getting about the same amount throughout the day and about the same amount from day to day helps a person with diabetes maintain a fairly level blood glucose or blood sugar level. This also keeps the person feeling healthier.

 

Myth: Insulin is a cure for diabetes.
Truth: Insulin does not cure diabetes, it only assists the body in managing blood glucose levels. When a person’s system is working well, carbohydrates are eaten and broken down to glucose in the mouth and stomach. Then this glucose is moved into the blood stream where insulin, made by the pancreas, helps unlock the cells for use there. As the body’s fuel, cells need glucose. But for someone with diabetes, the insulin does not do its job well – either because there is none or not enough produced or because it simply does not unlock the cells properly for them to get this needed glucose/fuel.

 

There are many myths about diabetes, but with the proper care a person can manage it well.

 

For more information about diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website at diabetes.org or contact Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, at 660-425-6434.

 


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Last Updated 03/26/2012