Meditation & Health #23 – The Myths About Diabetes
The Myths About Diabetes
By Si Si & Juliana Sun
It’s simplistic to say that diabetes is only caused by eating too much sugar. The truth about this serious condition is complex, making diabetes education essential to prevention and disease management. There’s so much online content about diabetes, but we have to be discerning about what we take as facts. Sometimes, even our well-meaning family members and friends can provide misleading information.
Get your facts about diabetes and see through the following myths and misconceptions.
Myth 1: I can eat as much sugar-free food as I want.
Diabetes management is not about simply replacing sweet foods with sugar-free ones. Keep in mind that “sugar-free” does not necessarily mean carbohydrate-free or calorie-free. The amount of carbohydrates and calories in one’s overall meal plan must be sensibly controlled, as these have the greatest effect on blood-sugar levels.
So-called “sugar-free” foods may contain substances such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates as replacements for sucrose (sugar). These are “sugar alcohols,” all of which contain carbohydrates and calories, just as sweeteners such as fructose, polydextrose and maltodextrin do. Foods containing these substances affect blood-sugar levels, albeit not as dramatically as sugar does. In addition, foods containing these sugar alcohols can cause gastric discomfort and diarrhea if consumed in large quantities.
Myth 2: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
The truth is not so straightforward. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
When a person has type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the immune system. Genetics and other unknown factors are involved in the development of the illness.
Type 2 diabetes is more complex and involves genetic and lifestyle factors. Although sugar intake will not directly cause diabetes, excess sugar consumption can cause weight gain, and this in turn raises the risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Eating too much of any food, not just sugar, can cause weight gain, possibly leading to the condition.
Myth 3: It is safe to ignore high blood sugar if there is no physical discomfort.
Mild elevations of blood sugar produce no symptoms, which is why about a quarter of all diabetics don’t know they have the disease. Diabetes symptoms range from mild to severe. By the time symptoms are obvious, the condition has worsened.
Untreated high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) has the potential to cause severe complications such as a diabetic coma, which necessitates emergency care. Persistent hyperglycemia has a serious negative impact on multiple major organs including the heart, eyes, nerves, and kidneys.
Myth 4: The lower the blood-sugar level, the better it is.
Good blood-glucose control means maintaining levels within the normal range as advised by your doctor. Dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can occur in those with diabetes who take medicines that increase insulin levels in the body. Skipping meals, eating less than usual, or working out more than normal can also lead to very low blood sugar for these individuals. Avoid aiming for low blood sugar, as life-threatening complications such as a coma or seizure can result.
Myth 5: Diabetes is under control if medications keep the blood-sugar level readings in the normal range.
This may be the most dangerous myth as it creates a false sense of security. Medications merely cover up the disease by controlling the symptoms, they don’t create health. Diabetes is a silent disease that causes progressive damage to body systems and bodily functions. Relying on medications without addressing lifestyle factors is a grave mistake.
These common myths about diabetes are often reported as facts. Clearing up misconceptions leads to better prevention and management of the disease. With the right guidance and diligent care, diabetic patients can live vibrant lives.