Debunking Dietary Myths
Who hasn’t heard far-fetched “facts” about diet and diabetes? These days, with the barrage of information coming at us from all sides, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. In this article, we take a closer look at 8 of the most common and persistent dietary myths.
Myth 1: Diabetes skips a generation
False. Unfortunately, diabetes does not discriminate. Family history is actually one of the main risk factors for the disease.
Myth 2: Diabetes can be cured
False. While there is no cure, diabetes can be managed. And people with diabetes can avoid complications by following the appropriate treatment and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Myth 3: All overweight people will eventually develop type 2 diabetes
False. Surplus weight is one risk factor for diabetes, but there are many others. Lots of type 2 diabetics have a healthy weight, and lots of overweight people never become diabetic.
Myth 4: Diabetics have to eat food products designed especially for them
False. Generally speaking, the recommended diet for people with diabetes is no different from that recommended for anyone else—that is to say low in salt, sugar and fat (especially saturated and trans fats) and high in whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Food products designed for diabetics generally cost more and don’t provide any concrete advantages when it comes to controlling blood sugar.
Myth 5: Diabetics can’t have sweets or chocolate
False. People with diabetes can still enjoy sweets. But they should talk about it with their doctor or pharmacist, keep their portions small, and combine “sweet breaks” with an exercise plan and a healthy diet. Sugar substitutes are also a good way to satisfy that sweet tooth without throwing blood sugar levels out of whack.
Myth 6: Diabetics are more likely to develop colds, flus and other illnesses
False. It is, however, recommended that diabetics get their flu vaccination because the flu, like the common cold, does make it harder to regulate blood sugar and can lead to complications.
Myth 7: If a doctor prescribes you insulin, this is a sign that you haven’t managed your type 2 diabetes well enough
False. Diabetes is usually a gradual disease. It can often be managed with oral medication in the early stages, but over time the body produces less and less of its own insulin, which may eventually result in the need for insulin therapy. In this case, you have to look at the treatment as a way to help, not a failure on the part of the patient.
Myth 8: All fats should be avoided
False. Fats are essential for proper functioning of the body, including digestion and vitamin absorption—especially for vitamins A, D, E and K. If you want to prevent fatty tissue from accumulating on your thighs, hips or belly, it’s a matter of managing calories and portion size.
What’s the bottom line?
The rise of the Internet and social media has been a great boon for diet myths. The best way to avoid being misled is to be critical of what you hear... and get the facts!
Diabetes Québec, “Mythes et statistiques”: http://www.preventiondiabete.ca/mythes-et-statistiques/categorie/0/page/5. Accessed April 2, 2014.
American Diabetes Association, “Diabetes Myths”: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/myths/. Accessed April 2, 2014.
EatRight Ontario, “Diabetes ‒ these facts may surprise you!”: http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Diabetes-Prevention/Diabetes-%E2%80%93-these-facts-may-surprise-you!.aspx#.UzwxBIU0_ts. Accessed April 2, 2014.
EatRight Ontario, “Resources ‒ Facts on Fats”: http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Heart-Health/Facts-on-Fats.aspx#.Vrj2dPnhBpg. Accessed April 2, 2014.
Joslin Diabetes Center, “Will Diabetes Go Away”: http://www.joslin.org/info/will_diabetes_go_away.html. Accessed April 2, 2014.