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Myths and Facts about Diabetes

There are many myths about diabetes that make it difficult for people to believe some of the hard facts – such as diabetes is a serious and potentially deadly disease. These myths can create a picture of diabetes that is not accurate and full of stereotypes and stigma.

Get the facts about diabetes and learn how you can stop diabetes myths and misconceptions.

Myth: Diabetes is not a serious disease.

Fact: If you manage your diabetes properly, you can prevent or delay diabetes complications. However, diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

Myth:Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

Fact:The answer is not so simple. Diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors.

A diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Being overweight increases risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Hence, eating a lot of sugary foods can increase weight and thus causes diabetes. Eating sugary foods without being overweight may not cause diabetes.

Myth: People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods only.

Fact: A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is the same as a healthy diet for anyone – low in fat (especially saturated and trans fat), moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on whole grain foods, vegetables and fruit. Special diabetic foods sold in the market generally offer no special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose levels, are usually more expensive and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.

Myth: If you have diabetes, you should only eat small amounts of starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta.

Fact: Starchy foods can be part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas and corn can be included in your meals and snacks. Wondering how much carbohydrate you can have? A place to start is about 45-60 grams of carbohydrate per meal, or 3-4 servings of carbohydrate-containing foods. However, you may need more or less carbohydrate at meals depending on how you manage your diabetes. You and your health care team can figure out the right amount for you. Once you know how much carb to eat at a meal, choose your food and the portion size to match.

Myth: People with diabetes can't eat sweets or chocolate.

Fact:If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with diabetes. The key to sweets is to have a very small portion and save them for special occasions so you focus your meal on more healthful foods.

Myth: Fruit is a healthy food. Therefore, it is ok to eat as much of it as you wish.

Fact: Fruit is a healthy food. It contains fiber and lots of vitamins and minerals. Because fruits contain carbohydrates, too much fruit in one go can cause high blood sugars. Talk to your dietitian about the amount, frequency and types of fruits you should eat.