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Revealing the truth behind diabetes myths.

The Sweet Truth About Diabetes

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There’s A Lot Of Confusion About Diabetes!

For those readers who are not diabetic, nor have a loved one who is diabetic, nor any other pressing reason to know these things, first a quick 101 rundown of some things to understand the rest of today’s main feature:

  • Blood sugar levels: how much sugar is in the blood, measured in mg/dL or mmol/L
  • Hyperglycemia or “hyper” for short: too much sugar in the blood
  • Hypoglycemia or “hypo” for short: too little sugar in the blood
  • Insulin: a hormone that acts as a gatekeeper to allow sugar to pass, or not pass, into various parts of the body
  • Type 1 diabetes (sometimes capitalized, and/or abbreviated to “T1D”) is an autoimmune disorder that prevents the pancreas from being able to supply the body with insulin. This means that taking insulin consistently is necessary for life.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a matter of insulin resistance. The pancreas produces plenty of insulin, but the body has become desensitized to it, so it doesn’t work properly. Taking extra insulin may sometimes be necessary, but for many people, it can be controlled by means of a careful diet and other lifestyle factors.

With that in mind, on to some very popular myths…

Diabetes is caused by having too much sugar

While sugar is not exactly a health food, it’s not the villain of this story either.

  • Type 1 diabetes has a genetic basis, triggered by epigenetic factors unrelated to sugar.
  • Type 2 diabetes comes from a cluster of risk factors which, together, can cause a person to go through pre-diabetes and acquire type 2 diabetes.
    • Those risk factors include:
      • A genetic predisposition
      • A large waist circumference
        • (this is more relevant than BMI or body fat percentage)
      • High blood pressure
      • A sedentary lifestyle
      • Age (the risk starts rising at 35, rises sharply at 45, and continues upwards with increasing age)

Read more: Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetics can’t have sugar

While it’s true that diabetics must be careful about sugar (and carbs in general), it’s not to say that they can’t have them… just: be mindful and intentional about it.

  • Type 1 diabetics will need to carb-count in order to take the appropriate insulin bolus. Otherwise, too little insulin will result in hyperglycemia, or too much insulin will result in hypoglycemia.
  • Type 2 diabetics will often be able to manage their blood sugar levels with diet alone, and slow-release carbs will make this easier.

In either case, having quick release sugars will increase blood sugar levels (what a surprise), and sometimes (such as when experiencing a hypo), that’s what’s needed.

Also, when it comes to sugar, a word on fruit:

Not all fruits are equal, and some fruits can help maintain stable blood sugar levels! Read all about it:

Fruit Intake to Prevent and Control Hypertension and Diabetes

Artificial sweeteners are must-haves for diabetics

Whereas sugar is a known quantity to the careful diabetic, some artificial sweeteners can impact insulin sensitivity, causing blood sugars to behave in unexpected ways. See for example:

The Impact of Artificial Sweeteners on Body Weight Control and Glucose Homeostasis

If a diabetic person is hyper, they should exercise to bring their blood sugar levels down

Be careful with this!

  • In the case of type 2 diabetes, it may (or may not) help, as the extra sugar may be used up.
  • Type 1 diabetes, however, has a crucial difference. Because the pancreas isn’t making insulin, a hyper (above a certain level, anyway) means more insulin is needed. Exercising could do more harm than good, as unlike in type 2 diabetes, the body has no way to use that extra sugar, without the insulin to facilitate it. Exercising will just pump the syrupy hyperglycemic blood around the body, potentially causing damage as it goes (all without actually being able to use it).

There are other ways this can be managed that are outside of the scope of this newsletter, but “be careful” is rarely a bad approach.

Read more, from the American Diabetes Association:

Exercise & Type 1 Diabetes

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