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Four Myths About Diabetes

Myth #1:  Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.

FALSE.  Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas completely stops making any insulin, a hormone that helps the body to use glucose (sugar) found in foods for energy. The exact cause or causes of type 1 diabetes isn’t known, but researchers suspect environmental factors, viruses or genetics play a role. What is known is that eating too many sweets doesn’t cause diabetes!

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, results when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin and/or is unable to use insulin properly (this is also referred to as ‘insulin resistance’). This form of diabetes usually occurs in people who are over 40 years of age, overweight, and have a family history of diabetes, although today it is increasingly occurring in younger people.

Myth #2:  Taking insulin means you have “failed.”

FALSE.  If you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin to survive once you’ve been diagnosed—there is no other treatment for the disease.

People with type 2 diabetes may initially be able to manage their diabetes with a combination of healthy eating and physical activity.  Many people start on oral diabetes medication when they are first diagnosed, and eventually, most people will need to go on insulin.  This is because diabetes changes over time. If you have type 2 diabetes, starting insulin doesn’t mean you’ve done a bad job—just the opposite, in fact!  Starting on insulin will help you to better manage your diabetes which, in turn, lowers your risk of developing complications.

Myth #3:  If you have diabetes, you can’t lead an active lifestyle.

FALSE. This myth is particularly problematic because many long-term studies have shown the positive impact regular physical activity has on lowering glucose. Naturally, any physical fitness program needs to be approved by your diabetes care team prior to starting, but once you’ve settled into a program, being active and healthy with diabetes is absolutely possible and is definitely encouraged!

If you have any complications, such as heart disease, retinopathy (eye disease) or neuropathy (pain or loss of sensation in your feet), talk with your provider before you start any kind of exercise program.  You may need special tests to make sure it’s safe for you to exercise.  Ask your provider for a referral to an exercise physiologist or qualified exercise trainer for suggestions on types of exercise that are best for you.  If you’ve never been very active, start slow.  Walking and yoga are great ways to ease into an activity program. For more on Diabetes and Yoga, click here.

Myth #4:   Injecting insulin is painful.

FALSE. If you take insulin injections, it doesn’t have to hurt. In fact, it shouldn’t hurt! Practice good injection technique and the experience will be virtually painless.  If you inject insulin with syringes, Andrea Penney, RN, CDE, of Joslin Diabetes Center, offers this advice: "After selecting and cleaning an injection site, firmly--but not tightly--pinch up an area about 2–3 inches wide. Inject at a ninety degree angle while the skin is pinched. Leave the needle in while you relax the pinch. Count to five slowly.  Then remove the needle. Do not massage the area after the injection."  

If you use an insulin pen and experience discomfort, ask your provider or diabetes educator about using shorter pen needles and needles that are thinner.  These can help minimize discomfort and do not require you to “pinch up.”

Page last updated: September 21, 2014