Many of us are fortunate to have access to the internet, allowing us to have a wealth of information at our fingertips. Unfortunately, not everything on the internet is reliable. It may not all be based on facts. Some information may solely be based on opinions, which may be misleading and do more harm than good. In a previous post, some of you may have read about some common myths about insulin and diabetes. This is part two of the post. Continue reading to expand your knowledge on common myths and misconceptions, as well as facts regarding diabetes. As with anything, it’s always a good idea to put your critical thinking caps on before you start reading. So, let’s get started!
MYTH 1: If I have diabetes, my diet should be entirely based on “diabetic foods."
FACT 1: First of all, do “diabetic foods” exist? There are definitely nutritious foods that are low on the glycemic index, making them great options to manage diabetes. However, they are by no means “diabetic foods” nor do they represent a special diet. The general guidelines for healthy eating are very similar whether or not you live with diabetes. For example, the vast majority (if not all) of your carbohydrates should come from fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Also, you need to watch out for and limit your consumption of salt, saturated fats, and added sugars. Looking at these recommendations, you’ll realize that they’re the same recommendations suggested for everyone! At the end of the day, a balanced meal consisting of a variety of nutritious foods in proper portion sizes is key to not only manage your diabetes, but also to live an overall healthy lifestyle!
MYTH 2: If I have diabetes, that means my body is not producing sufficient amounts of insulin.
FACT 2: There are two types of diabetes to be aware of. Type 1 diabetes results when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are attacked by the body’s immune system, the consequence being a lack of insulin production. Type 2 diabetes may develop despite there being enough insulin produced. In that case, insulin resistance by body cells may prevent the produced insulin from efficiently doing its job of helping body cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream.
MYTH 3: Insulin is the ultimate cure for diabetes.
FACT 3: As of now, research has not found a cure for diabetes. However, there are several steps you can take to manage your diabetes. Taking insulin is one of those important steps as it helps glucose (sugar) move from the bloodstream into your cells to be used as energy, consequently helping keep your blood sugar levels within the target range.
MYTH 4: Whether taken as a pill or injection, insulin has the same effect on the body.
FACT 4: The issue with consuming insulin, a hormone, orally is that its structure and properties are likely to be altered by the enzymes and acids in your digestive tract. Although research has and is looking into other ways of how insulin can be delivered, as of now, the most effective way known is through injections.
MYTH 5: People living with diabetes can feel when their blood sugar levels are not in the target range.
FACT 5: It’s true that some people may experience physical symptoms of high or low sugars, such as excessive thirst or tiredness when their blood sugar levels are away from the target range. However, that’s not always the case, nor is it a strict rule. Some people may have blood sugar levels that are extremely high or low without recognizing it. The best way to know where your blood sugar levels are at is to regularly monitor them. The number of times you need to check your blood sugar levels is specific to you and should be followed as recommended by your health care team.
MYTH 6: Borderline diabetes does not require any lifestyle changes.
FACT 6: Prediabetes is a term that describes the stage in which blood sugar levels are above the typical range but are below the level you need to have for a diabetes diagnosis. A fasting glucose level between 6.1 and 6.9 mmol/L, or an A1C level, which measures the percentage of hemoglobin in the bloodstream covered with sugar, between 6.0% to 6.4% are indicative of prediabetes. Being in this stage may mean you have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. However, this does not always have to be the case. With lifestyle changes, such as consuming a variety of healthy whole foods with limited added sugar, as well as exercising regularly for at least 150 minutes a week, you will reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
MYTH 7: Do not exercise if you have diabetes.
FACT 7: The benefits of exercise do not change if you have diabetes. Exercise helps to manage diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity, referring to how responsive your body cells are to insulin. Adults need to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days a week. Incorporate strength training 2 to 3 times spread throughout the week, working on different muscles on different days. Take the time to consult with your medical care team to ensure your exercise routine is suitable for you.
I hope that by going through this blog, you start to acknowledge that many myths are often reported as facts. It’s very important that you consult with your health care team when you read something that seems too good to be true because that may indeed be the case. Ensure that you always have your critical thinking caps on the next time you read information about diabetes!
“Diabetes.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/science/diabetes. Accessed 26 July 2021.
“Healthy eating for blood sugar control.” Harvard Health Publishing, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/healthy-eating-for-blood-sugar-control. Accessed 27 July 2021.
Higuera, Valencia. “Everything You Need to Know About Insulin.” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/insulin. Accessed 30 July 2021.
“Insulin Therapies.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/science/diabetes-mellitus/Insulin-therapies. Accessed 26 July 2021.
Kendra, V., et al. “Long-Term Outcome of Individuals Treated with Oral Insulin: Diabetes Prevention Trial-Type 1 (DPT-1) Oral Insulin Trial.” Diabetes Care, vol. 34, no. 7, 2011, pp. 1585-90. ProQuest, http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.2337/dc11-0523. Accessed 27 July 2021.
“Pre-Diabetes.” Harvard Health Publishing, https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/pre-diabetes-a-to-z. Accessed 29 July 2021.
Zisser, H., et al. “Exercise and diabetes.” International Journal of Clinical Practice (Esher), vol. 65, 2011, pp. 71-75, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1742-1241.2010.02581.x. Accessed 1 August 2021.