8 common myths about diabetes debunked

crop5_240X240_6thnov14There are several myths associated with diabetes that have turned into common beliefs and are assumed to be true. Here are 8 such common myths that Dr. Rajiv Kovil debunks! 

Myth 1: I don’t have to watch myself, because my doctor says I have “just a touch of sugar” or “I’m borderline.”

The Truth: If your doctor says you have “just a touch of sugar” or “you’re borderline,” you have pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is characterized by higher than normal blood sugar but not as high as type 2 diabetes. However, pre-diabetes puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years. Losing some weight, if you’re overweight, and getting more active can reduce your risk of getting diabetes. The landmark Diabetes Prevention Program in 1992 found that lifestyle changes, more than medication, reduced pre-diabetics’ risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. In people over age 60 the risk was reduced by 71 percent!

Myth 2: If you are obese or overweight you will get diabetes. 

The Truth: Weight and Type 1 diabetes simply have no connection. Type 2 diabetes can be caused by obesity to some extent because body fat hampers the adequate utilization of insulin. Weight is a risk factor for diabetes, but there are other factors, such as family history, that also play an important part.

Myth 3: If you have diabetes, you can’t do too much exercise or you might get a low blood sugar attack. 

The Truth: If you are on insulin or a medication that increases insulin production in the body, you have to balance exercise, insulin, and diet. However, many type 2 diabetics are not on insulin, and the most commonly used oral medications for diabetes, such as metformin and sitagliptin, don’t cause low blood sugar at all, no matter how much exercise you do. In fact, exercise is crucial to controlling diabetes, along with weight loss.

Myth 4: Insulin will harm you. 

The Truth: A Diabetologist often hears “I don’t want to be on insulin because as soon as Grandma went on insulin she died.” Insulin is a lifesaver, but it’s also difficult to manage for many people. It’s crucial to test your blood sugar many times a day when you’re on insulin to avoid low blood sugar reactions that will harm you.

Myth 5: Diabetes means having to give yourself shots, and I can’t stand needles. 

The Truth: Only people who are on injectable medications need to deal with needles.  Today there are insulin pens that don’t require you to inject yourself and blood sugar meters that make drawing blood painless. Today, insulin needles are small, comfortable, high quality needles, are not like the larger, more painful ones.

Myth 6: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

The Truth: Years ago, folks called it “sugar diabetes,” implying that the disease was caused by eating too much of the sweet stuff. Medical experts now know that diabetes is triggered by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. However, being overweight — which can result from indulging in high-calorie sugary foods — does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. If you have a history of diabetes in your family, eating a healthy meal plan and getting regular exercise are recommended to manage your weight.

Myth 7: If I have to begin insulin therapy, it means that my diabetes is getting worse.

The Truth: False. If your doctor tells you that you need insulin therapy in order to control your diabetes that does not mean you are doing anything wrong or your condition is getting worse. Insulin is simply a tool to help you better manage your blood sugar level.

Your blood sugar level can be controlled through a combination of insulin therapy, diet, and exercise. (In fact, many people with type 2 diabetes follow a regimen called combination therapy that uses pills along with insulin.) Without insulin treatment, however, your blood sugar may rise and you will be at greater risk for developing the serious complications associated with diabetes.

Myth 8: People with diabetes can’t drink alcohol

The Truth: The fact is most people with diabetes can, but only in moderation. While alcohol won’t raise blood sugar levels, insulin and other medications can mix with alcohol to lower your blood sugar. These unexpected drops can be dangerous, and sometimes won’t be felt until the next day. In addition, alcohol is loaded with empty calories, and can cause unwanted weight gain.


Dr. Rajiv Kovil
Consultant Diabetologist, Dr. Kovil’s Diabetes Care Centre

Dr. Rajiv Kovil is a Consultant Diabetologist at Dr. Kovil’s Diabetes Care Centre, the first Preventive Diabetes Centre & Diabetic Foot Clinic in Mumbai, KLS Memorial Hospital and Holy Spirit Hospital among others. He is a founder member of United Diabetes Forum, a forum of practising diabetologists in India. He has also written various articles on diabetes for medical journals such as Asian Journal of Diabetology and Medical Image. His Preventive Diabetes Centre & Diabetic Foot Clinic is an initiative to provide preventive diabetic measures as well as to function as a specialized Foot Clinic for diabetic patients not only in terms of equipment but more importantly in terms of expertise.

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