Diabetes mellitus affects around 8.5% of adults above 18 years of age, as per WHO. The number of individuals affected by diabetes has gradually increased over the last few decades. This can partially be attributed to changing lifestyles, and obesity. Despite being among the leading causes of death and disability, awareness about diabetes is abysmally low, especially in developing countries. There are so many myths and beliefs surrounding diabetes. False beliefs and myths delay proper treatment.
Myth 1 : Eating too much sweet things cause diabetes.
Fact : Diabetes can be broadly classified into two types based on the underlying cause of increased glucose levels.
Type 1 diabetes, which was previously known as insulin-dependent diabetes or young onset disease, is characterised by a lack of insulin production by the pancreas. Type 1 disease is caused by genetic influences, which cause depletion of cells that produce insulin from pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes, previously called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes, is caused by our bodys’ inability to utilise insulin. This type is caused by genetic and environmental factors.
Myth 2 : Diabetes is not serious, and does not cause any problems.
Diabetes does not cause any significant symptoms per se, but it does not mean that you can ignore it. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of deaths, and uncontrolled diabetes is also one of the leading causes of limb amputations globally. Diabetes is one of the worst human diseases. Diabetes is a condition that affects every single organ of our body directly, or indirectly. The effects of diabetes on different organs like heart, brain, kidneys, and blood vessels are responsible for deaths and disability from diabetes.
Myth 3 : Diabetes is a disease of old age.
Type 2 disease commonly occurs after 40 years of age and is a result of combination of genetic and lifestyle factors.
Myth 4 : People with Diabetes should not take any sweet or starchy foods.
It is true that starch rich foods and sweets increase blood sugar levels. However, this does not mean that a person with diabetes can not have these as a part of the meal. A healthy diet is same for a diabetic and a non-diabetic person. Starch rich foods like cereals, whole wheat breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, milk, yoghurt etc. can be included in the diet provided the serving size is small and blood sugar control is good. If you have been recently diagnosed as a diabetic and you do not know how much carbohydrates to take, then start taking low quantities upto 50 grams per major meal. Then you can titrate the amount based on your blood sugar levels.
Another helpful advice is usually to take small quantity meal at short intervals, rather than having large quantity meals.
There is no such thing as special ‘Diabetic diet’. Diabetic persons can have meals just like normal individuals.
Myth 5 : Fruits are good, eat more.
Yes. fruits are good. But, only as a part of balanced diet. Besides containing vitamins and being rich in fibre, fruits also contain carbohydrates. The quantity and frequency needs to be suitably adjusted by an expert dietician as per your blood sugars.
Myth 6 : Insulin injections are not good.
Insulin is essential for the maintenance of our metabolism balance. Insulin injections form the basis of treatment for type 1 diabetic patients.
Type 2 patients are initially managed with oral medications to keep blood sugar levels under control. These oral medications act by increasing secretion of insulin, decreasing absorption of glucose from our gut, or by increasing the sensitivity of different organs to available insulin. However, type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease and eventually your doctor may advice you to take insulin. This is because your body progressively produces less and less of insulin with time, and oral medications fail to lower blood glucose levels.