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When you tell your friends that you've been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, you may notice their eyes glaze over. It has seeped into public consciousness that Type 2 Diabetes is less serious than Type 1, a simply self-inflicted illness that can be entirely prevented (even cured) by eating fewer sweets and snacks. Here, we examine some of the most common and harmful myths and misconceptions of Type 2 Diabetes, and explore the truth.
Is Type 2 Diabetes a big problem?
It's estimated that of the 415 million diabetics worldwide, 90% are Type 2. One in two is undiagnosed, presenting a massive potential health problem for years to come.
If you have the following diabetes symptoms, see a doctor:
- Increased urination
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
- Cuts that are slow to heal
- Frequent episodes of thrush, or itching around the vagina or penis
Now let's examine the harmful myths that surround Type 2 Diabetes.
Myth 1: Type 2 Diabetes isn't that serious
All diabetes is serious and will lead to serious complications - including kidney disease, eye problems, and foot ulcers which may lead to amputation - if improperly managed. Additionally, having diabetes (regardless of whether it's Type 1 or Type 2) almost doubles your risk of heart attack.
Myth 2: Type 2 Diabetes is a fat-person disease
Obesity is a risk factor in Type 2 Diabetes; however it is not the only cause. Genetic and environmental factors are also to blame. Many adults are a normal weight or only slightly overweight when diagnosed, while many obese people never develop the disease. Other risk factors include age, ethnicity (African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans seem at especial risk), and family history (diabetes is often found to cluster in families).
Recent research hints that an autoimmune reaction may also be partly responsible (as is the case in Type 1 Diabetes). Research shows the antibody anti-CD20 prevented diabetes developing in prediabetic mice, and rebalanced their blood glucose levels (even though the mice had a strong genetic predisposition). Human studies suggest an autoimmune reaction may be at-work in human diabetics, too.
Myth 3: Diabetics should only eat "diabetic" food
There is no need to buy expensive "diabetic foods". A healthy balanced diet is all you need. In fact, some "diabetic foods" contain sugar alcohols (such as xylitol, sorbitol or maltitol) and can be counter-productive. Not only can they raise your blood glucose levels more, they can also cause unpleasant gastrointestinal effects including gas and diarrhoea.
Besides eating right for diabetes doesn't have to bust your budget. Here's a list of diabetic foods everyone can afford.
Myth 4: Diabetics should avoid all sugar
There's nothing wrong with the occasional dessert following a meal, or a sweet treat as part of a balanced, healthy diet. However, monitor your blood glucose levels, eat small portions, and try to eat sweets with a meal to prevent them being digested too quickly. Large portions, sugary drinks, or sugared products consumed by themselves can be digested quickly and cause an unpleasant spike in your blood glucose levels.