Updated: Nov 16
In the month of November, we want to recognize the disease that has affected over 37 million Americans. #DiabetesAwarenessMonth This year, the focus is on taking action by introducing small steps toward a change to prevent health problems caused by diabetes. While it is a widespread disease, lots of harmful myths surround it. Let’s dive into them:
Sugar/Carbohydrates cause diabetes.
That’s false. Diabetes is a group of diseases. Eating carbs or sugar does not causes diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes is caused by an autoimmune response that destroys the beta cells located in the pancreas. This action prevents insulin from being secreted. Diet and lifestyle are not responsible for Type 1 Diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is not caused by a particular nutrient directly but by hormonal fluctuations that happen during pregnancy. Additionally, excess weight may also play a role in developing GDM.
Type 2 diabetes is largely caused by insulin resistance that develops due to many reasons, including diet and lifestyle choices. However, when it comes to causes, carbohydrates or sugar are not directly responsible. A unhealthy diet consisting of excess consumption of refined carbohydrates (white flour crackers, breads, pasta, pastry, muffin, cakes, white rice, etc) raise calories which in-turn, increase risk for chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes. Carbohydrates, including natural sugars (for example fructose from fruit), are broken down to glucose also known as sugar in the human body and are used as fuel for our cells. We need insulin to get glucose into the cells, but with diabetes, insulin production is compromised, resulting in high blood sugar in the bloodstream.
High-fat diets like Keto and Carnivore diets help manage diabetes.
Likely not. A New American Diabetes Association (ADA) report released in 2019 regarding treating diabetes encouraged practitioners to focus on balanced and individualized dietary patterns for managing diabetes. Following high-fat diets may have health consequences and should be supervised by professionals. Also, these diets may increase the risk of too-low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) and elevated intake of saturated fats. ADA's recent review discussed that saturated fats are primarily in animal products and should be kept at around 10% or lower to prevent atherosclerosis – the risk of plaque in one's arteries.
You can Reverse Type 2 Diabetes.
Not exactly. The words reversal and remission are often used interchangeably when talking about recovery from type 2 diabetes. However, they do not mean the same thing in this context.
With proper dietary and lifestyle changes, in addition to the treatment, patients with type 2 diabetes can achieve remission. Remission is classified as 3 months with no glucose-lowering medication and A1C below 6.5. Current research says that Type 2 diabetes can’t be cured, so a complete reversal is not precisely the correct term to use. Patients who achieve remission will have to apply diet and lifestyle changes to continue having that improvement. Work with a culturally aligned RDN and CDCES to achieve these diet and lifestyle goals.
Waist size doesn’t matter.
It does. Waist circumference is used to evaluate abdominal obesity and health risks, including diabetes related to it. Body fat distribution around the abdominal area is strongly associated with insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. The research suggests that waist circumferences greater than 40 inches (102 cm) for men and 35 inches (88 cm) for women may increase the risk of diabetes and other cardiometabolic (heart/metabolism) diseases.
Early detection doesn’t matter.
Opposite of that! Early detection of various symptoms related to diabetes is really important and may prevent the worsening of symptoms and severe health complications. Untreated diabetes may lead to constantly elevated blood sugars that affect the large and small vessels of the body. This, in turn, can cause complications like cardiovascular disease, peripheral arterial disease, and liver disease. The bottom line is that the sooner detection, the better!
Once Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) goes away, I don’t need to be concerned.
False. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that half of the women who had gestational diabetes developed Type 2 diabetes after giving birth. Long-term prevention, diet, and lifestyle modification, even postpartum, should be part of further treatment. If you had GDM, it is recommended to test for diabetes 4-12 weeks after giving birth and then every 1 to 3 years.
GDM can’t increase my child’s risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.
False. GDM during pregnancy, especially untreated or poorly controlled, increases the risk of the baby having Type 2 diabetes later in life. Constantly elevated blood sugars reach the baby through the placenta and result in the constant release of insulin. Excess insulin increases the risk of childhood obesity and the risk of adult Type 2 diabetes.
Misinformation about diabetes and treatment options with diet and lifestyle changes can feel truly overwhelming! We get that. If you want your questions answered, Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes is an expert in this field. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian specializing in Women's Health and Wellness, she is also a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She is here to guide you through your journey!
Blog Medically reviewed by Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, MS, RDN, CDCES, LDN, NASM-CPT, Women's Health Dietitian, Wellness Practitioner, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, Women's Fitness Specialist Certified Personal Trainer, & Founder - 360Girls&Women®
Sue-Ellen Anderson Haynes, MS, RDN, CDCES, LDN, NASM-CPT, founder of 360Girls&Women® Nationally recognized nutrition and food expert and leading global expert in Gestational Diabetes. "What makes us different?" 360 represents completion. At 360 G+W we provide personalized insight to help girls and women dramatically improve their wellbeing. Our mission is to provide evidence-based information and services to help maximize a woman's complete health through the complete life-cycle - preventing, managing, and reversing certain reproductive and chronic illnesses- using nutrition as the foundation along with other innovative holistic practices. Read more.
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