There is much today in the press, online and by health officials about diabetes, and for good reason. Diabetes, which affects 37.3 million people in the U.S. (about 11.3 percent of the population) ranks among America’s leading health issues with the most being types 1 and 2. Type 1 occurs when the body can no longer make insulin, which is needed for glucose to enter the cells to make energy. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, which means the body’s cells do not respond normally to insulin. When this happens, the pancreas makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond. Eventually the pancreas cannot keep up, and blood sugar increases setting the stage for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Still despite everything written and said about diabetes to reach consumers, there still are many misconceptions about the disease, some of which have led to a stigma about those who suffer from it. The stigma suggests that people who have diabetes may have brought it on themselves or only those who are overweight can get the disease. The fact is that diabetes is a complex condition with a variety of causes, and each person's experience with it is unique.
Among common misconceptions about diabetes are:
- Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
Fact: Eating too much sugar causes weight gain, which puts you at a greater risk for diabetes. However, simply eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes.
- Myths: If you are overweight, you will develop type 2 diabetes.
Fact: Being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes, but there are other factors that affect getting the disease: family history, ethnicity, age, and degree of physical activity. You can be a healthy weight or moderately overweight and still get diabetes.
- Myth: Diabetes has no symptoms.
Fact: While some people with type 2 have mild symptoms that may not suggest the disease, there are signs. Common symptoms include excessive thirst; feeling very hungry even though you are eating; blurry vision; frequent urination; and tingling, pain and numbness in hands and feet.
- Myth: Having diabetes means you automatically need insulin.
Fact: That is the fact for type 1, but you can control type 2 diabetes for some time without requiring insulin through diet, exercise, and oral medications.
- Myth: Only older people get diabetes.
Fact: Today, children as young as five are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. That is why healthy eating, smaller portions and exercise are so important.
- Myth: Carbohydrates are bad for diabetes.
Fact: It is the type of carbohydrates that matter. Carbohydrates can contribute to an increase in blood sugar. However, a diet plan for a diabetic still should include making sure to get adequate amounts of carbohydrates. Not all carbohydrates are the same. Knowing this helps in making the right food choices. Some foods that contain carbohydrates also include other key nutrients that, if taken in the right amount, can be a benefit to someone with diabetes.
- Myth: If you are taking medication for diabetes, you do not need to watch your diet.
Fact: You need to combine lifestyle choices and medication to manage diabetes.
Whether you have diabetes or know someone who does, make sure to separate the fact about the disease versus the fiction.
 “National Diabetes Statistics Report,” CDC, Accessed December 9, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics-report/index.html
 “Dealing with diabetes myths,” Mayo Clinic, April 22, 2022. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/blog/take-charge-healthy-aging/newsfeed-post/dealing-with-diabetes-myths-and-misconceptions/