Six myths about diabetes

Diabetes is a complex condition. We’ve debunked some common myths to help clear things up a bit.

Diabetes is a complex condition and there are some common misconceptions about what it means, what causes it, how to prevent it, and the differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Here, we debunk some of the myths.

Myth 1: Pre-diabetes is not as serious as diabetes

Bupa Australia’s National Medical Director and GP Dr Tim Ross says, “people don’t take pre-diabetes seriously enough.”

“People [with pre-diabetes] often think that their blood glucose levels are adequate when they are too high, and there are risks that they are ignoring with this.” The risk is that if those with pre-diabetes don’t take action to lower their blood glucose levels to an optimal range, such as making lifestyle changes, they’re likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

There is no such thing as ‘mild diabetes’. All types of diabetes are serious and an affect quality of life, lead to compilations, and reduce life expectancy if not well managed. 

Myth 2: All types of diabetes are the same

There are several different types of diabetes. The main types of diabetes are type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes and are generally managed in different ways. Aside from gestational diabetes, which goes away once the baby is born (though leaves mother and child with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes), once someone has type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it will need to be managed for life.

Myth 3: Diabetes can be prevented

Unfortunately, not all types of diabetes can be prevented.  The cause of type 1 diabetes is still unknown though it’s often thought to be triggered by a virus or other autoimmune disease. There’s also often a genetic reason if it runs in the family.
However, it is estimated that nearly 60 per cent of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by exercise and healthy eating. Other well-established risk factors include family history, being overweight or obese, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, age, some medical conditions, or being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin.
2 older women walking

Myth 4: Only overweight or obese people develop diabetes

Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor for type 2 diabetes, however it is not the only reason for developing the condition. Some people who are a healthy weight will develop type 2 diabetes, while others who are outside a healthy weight range may not. 

Myth 5: You can only get diabetes if you are genetically pre-disposed to it

“Sadly, anyone can get diabetes,” says Dr Ross. “As we have an increasingly obese and inactive population, we now have children under 10 who have been shown to have type 2 diabetes. That’s why it’s often called a ‘lifestyle disease’.”

An unhealthy diet, being overweight and an inactive lifestyle increases your risk, whether or not you have a genetic predisposition to developing diabetes. 

Myth 6: People with diabetes cannot eat sugar

Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you need to avoid sugar and foods containing sugar completely! However, it’s better if the sugar in your diet comes from healthy, nutritious foods like whole fruit or low-sugar, low-fat dairy rather than from foods that are high in saturated fats, high-sugar snacks, desserts and cakes. These can make it difficult for you to manage your blood glucose levels and weight. 

“Sugar just needs to be from the right sources and in the right quantities – diet is one of the keys to managing type 2 diabetes,” says Dr Tim Ross.

“Type 2 diabetes is largely a preventable lifestyle disease these days," says Dr Ross. “So there’s a great need to address common causes as a community to help prevent the growing health burden and risk to people’s health.”
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