There's a lot of diabetes information out there — unfortunately, not all of it is based on facts. Although you can find a lot of good information about diabetes on the Internet, you can also find bad information. Following bad advice could actually harm a person with diabetes. Sometimes you don't even need to log onto a website to get incorrect info — family members or friends can give out information that's incorrect, inaccurate, or misleading without even knowing it!
It's a good idea to talk to your diabetes health care team if you ever come across information that doesn't seem quite right or sounds too good to be true. And be cautious if someone tells you to do the opposite of what your diabetes health care team has told you — always check with your doctors first to get the scoop on what's helpful and what's harmful.
So let's find out which of these common things said about diabetes are true — and which are false.
False: Type 1 diabetes happens when the cells in the pancreas (pronounced: pan-kree-us) that make insulin (pronounced: in-suh-lin) are destroyed. This process isn't related to how much sugar a person eats. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can't respond to insulin normally. In most cases, the tendency to get type 2 diabetes is inherited, or linked to the genes someone gets from his or her parents, but eating too much sugar (or foods with sugar, like candy or regular soda) can cause weight gain, which can increase a person's risk for developing the disease.
False: You can have your cake and eat it too, just not the whole cake! People with diabetes need to control the total amount of carbohydrates (pronounced: kar-bo-hi-drates) in their diet, and sugary treats count as carbohydrates. But this doesn't mean that they can't have any sweets. It just means that they should put the brakes on eating too many sweets and other types of foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Eating too many of these foods can also make it less likely you'll want to eat healthier foods.
False: People don't grow out of their diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin and won't make it again. People with type 1 diabetes will always need to take insulin, until scientists find a cure for diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes may find it easier to control blood sugar levels if they make healthy changes to their lives, like eating right and exercising regularly. But people with type 2 diabetes will probably always have the tendency to develop high blood sugar levels, so it's important to maintain those healthy lifestyle changes.
False: Diabetes is not contagious, which means you can't get it from another person. Scientists don't know exactly how people get type 1 diabetes, but they think it may be associated with something in the environment, like a virus. But even coming into contact with such a virus doesn't mean someone will definitely get diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes have to inherit genes that make them more likely to get diabetes.
False: You may feel certain symptoms (like weakness or fatigue) if your blood sugar levels are high or low, but the only way to know your blood sugar levels for sure is to test them. People who don't test regularly may have blood sugar levels that are high enough to damage the body without even realizing it.
False: All people with type 1 diabetes have to take insulin injections because their pancreases don't make insulin anymore. Some, but not all, people with type 2 diabetes have to take insulin — with or without other diabetes medications — to manage their blood sugar levels.
False: Diabetes is a condition that you manage with insulin, but insulin can't cure it. Insulin helps get glucose (pronounced: gloo-kose) out of the blood and into the cells, where it's used for energy. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels under control, but taking insulin doesn't correct the reason why diabetes developed, nor does it make the diabetes go away.
False: Diabetes medicines that a person takes in pill form are not insulin. Insulin is a protein that would be broken down and destroyed by the acids and digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines if swallowed. That's why insulin has to be given as a shot. People with type 2 diabetes sometimes take pills that help the body make more insulin or use the insulin it makes more effectively (remember, people with type 2 diabetes still make insulin, the body just can't respond to it normally). Pills for diabetes cannot help people with type 1 diabetes because their bodies don't make insulin.
False: There is no one-size-fits-all insulin dose. Insulin doses are different for each person. How fast you're growing, how much you eat, how active you are, and whether you're going through puberty are all things that affect the amount of insulin you'll need each day. And insulin doses often need to be changed over time.
False: When people are sick, especially if they are throwing up or not eating much, having to take insulin or pills for their diabetes might not seem to make sense. Even though you might have to adjust your insulin dose when you're sick, you can't skip it altogether. You need energy when you're sick to help your body heal. Insulin helps you use that energy properly. Talk to your diabetes health care team to make sure you understand what to do when you're sick, depending on whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
False: Exercise is important for all people — with or without diabetes! Exercise has many benefits. In addition to helping keep your weight under control (which is helpful for managing diabetes), exercise is good for your heart and lungs, it helps you burn off some steam, and it relieves stress. And exercise is great for blood sugar control. Talk to your diabetes health care team about exercising and managing your blood sugar.
False: Carbohydrates (carbs) are the body's preferred source of energy, and foods containing carbs should provide about half of your calories each day. Low-carbohydrate diets tend to be higher in protein and fat. Following a high-fat, high-protein diet over a long period of time can be hard on the kidneys and heart. People with diabetes are already at risk for kidney and heart disease, so adding low-carb diets to the mix could cause problems. People with diabetes need to follow a diet that contains the right amount of carbohydrates, so they can grow normally and do the things they like doing while keeping their blood sugar levels under control.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases This group conducts and supports research on many serious diseases affecting public health.|
|American Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.|
|Joslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.|
|Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.|
|When Blood Sugar Is Too Low When blood glucose levels drop too low, it's called hypoglycemia. Very low blood sugar levels can cause severe symptoms that need to be treated right away.|
|Your Diabetes Health Care Team It takes all of your team members - you, your parents, doctors, certified diabetes educators, dietitians, and mental health pros - to help you take care of your diabetes.|
|Diabetes Control: Why It's Important People who have diabetes may hear or read a lot about controlling, or managing, the condition. But what is diabetes control and why is it so important?|
|Diabetes: Erika's Story Erika's doctors diagnosed her with diabetes when she was 12. She'd always been terrified of needles, but managed to face her fears. Today, Erika says her life is pretty much like any other young woman's. Read her story.|
|Type 2 Diabetes: What Is It? Teens with type 2 diabetes and have to pay close attention to what they eat and do.|
|Type 1 Diabetes: What Is It? Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is the body's main source of fuel. In type 1 diabetes, glucose can't get into the body's cells where it's needed.|
|Sports, Exercise, and Diabetes Teens with diabetes can exercise and play sports at the same level as everyone else, so whether you want to go for the gold or just go hiking in your hometown, diabetes shouldn't hold you back.|
|Diabetes Center Our Diabetes Center provides information and advice for teens about treating and living with diabetes.|
|Carbohydrates and Diabetes If you have diabetes, your doctor may have recommended keeping track of how many carbohydrates (carbs) you eat. But what exactly are carbs and how do they affect your blood sugar?|
|Meal Plans and Diabetes People with diabetes don't need to be on strict diets, but do need to pay attention to what they eat and when. Crack open the cookbooks and surf to your favorite recipe website because it's time to plan meals that you love!|
|When Blood Sugar Is Too High For people with diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels is important. Having a blood sugar level that's too high can make you feel lousy, and having high blood sugar levels a lot can be unhealthy.|
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