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Diabetes myths: these are absolutely not true.

We all know how dangerous fake news is, and diabetes myths are the original fake news when it comes to living with diabetes. They also contribute to diabetes stigma, and misinformation, both of which are so harmful. Let’s take a look at 4 common diabetes myths.

1. Eating too much sugar gives you diabetes

Since diabetes is a condition characterized by high or low blood sugar, many people wonder whether eating sugar can cause it.

While it’s true that eating large amounts of added sugar in your everyday foods may increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, sugar intake alone is just one piece of the puzzle. And when it comes to Type 1 diabetes, it’s not about eating too much sugar at all. Sugar can’t give you Type 1 diabetes because it is an autoimmune condition – which means that your immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin.

So does eating too much sugar give you diabetes? No. That said, it does increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Studies have found that people who regularly drink sugar-sweetened beverages have a roughly 25% greater risk of Type 2 diabetes. Here’s what the WHO has to say about sugar recommendations.

Did you know that the average person in South Africa consumes between 12 and 24 teaspoons of sugar per day and 4 to 8 teaspoons are from sugar sweetened beverages?

WITS University

2. Type 2 is less dangerous than Type 1 diabetes

Although Type 2 diabetes is much more common than Type 1, both conditions are equally serious. (Here’s the difference between the two, if you need a reminder.)

No form of diabetes is more dangerous than the other. If Type 2 diabetes is poorly managed it can lead to serious complications, as can Type 1 diabetes. Although the risk of hypoglycemic episodes is greater in those with Type 1, Type 2 can go undiagnosed for longer and potentially lead to long-term complications before diagnosis.

Good control of diabetes can significantly decrease the risk of complications but this doesn’t mean the condition itself is not serious. It is possible to live a healthy, happy life with any kind of diabetes!

3. People with diabetes can’t eat sweet things

While eating a slice of cake every day isn’t going to help your diabetes management, people with diabetes can eat sweet things in moderation. Portion control is so important!

Being diagnosed with diabetes should not mean you have to miss out on the joys of cakes or celebrating special moments. But it’s a good idea to plan carefully – consider eating small portions at a time so that your blood glucose doesn’t spike too much, and always eat protein with carbohydrate (a few nuts or a slice of cheese).

You can also try healthier options – check out our Sweet Life Diabetes Cookbook for ideas.

4. People with diabetes will develop complications

A common myth is that if you have diabetes, you will develop complications – particularly blindness and impotence. This is 100% not true.

Having diabetes means you will eventually go blind

Can Cataracts cause Blindness? | Delhi Eye Center

Although it is true that people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, an eye condition which can lead to blindness, it is preventable.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, finding and treating retinopathy early can reduce the risk of blindness by 95%. That is why there is strong evidence for regular eye screening for people who have diabetes. You should have an annual eye screening.

Have a look at this article on how to claim for your retinopathy benefit if you are on Discovery Medical Aid.

Men with diabetes are impotent

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control erection, it’s true. But if you are able to keep your blood glucose in a normal range, you are far less likely to develop erectile dysfunction. Treating and managing erectile dysfunction is possible, with the right lifestyle changes – limiting smoking and alcohol as well as maintaining good blood glucose control. Improving your blood sugar can help prevent nerve and blood vessel damage that can lead to erectile dysfunction. Read more about erectile dysfunction and diabetes.

So there you have it! Four diabetes myths that are not based in truths at all. What diabetes myths have you heard?

Photo by Faran Raufi, Karly Gomez and Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

What to read next?

What is TEEL? A simple way to manage your diabetes: Expert tips to help you manage diabetes.

Erectile dysfunction and diabetes: Did you know? Men who have diabetes are thought to develop erectile dysfunction between 10 and 15 years earlier than men who don’t have diabetes, whether or not they use insulin.

Diabetic retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes. Rencia Phillips, Sweet Life community member explains what it is like.

What are Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes? Finally! An easy explanation: Here’s some basic information about the differences between the different types of diabetes

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.