Diabetes Myths and Realities

In the March 2013 issue of School Nutrition, author Dayle Hayes reviewed the facts you need to help prevent diabetes for yourself (and your family) and the basic information you need to work with your healthcare provider, if you are ever diagnosed with diabetes. The article also highlighted some myths and facts related to diabetes; read on for more of these to test yourself on how much you know.

Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
Fact: While overconsumption of sugar is not good for you, it does not necessarily cause diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and other factors that trigger the onset of the disease; type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. Some studies have shown that a high intake of sugary drinks (regular soda, fruit punch, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sweet tea, etc.) is linked to type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association does recommend that people limit their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages to help prevent diabetes.

Myth: You can catch diabetes from someone who has the disease.
 No. Although we don’t know exactly why some people develop diabetes, we know for certain that diabetes cannot be caught like a cold or flu. Lifestyle factors play an important role in who develops type 2 diabetes, and there seems to be a genetic link, as well.

Myth: When you have diabetes, you can only eat tiny amounts of carbs like bread, potatoes and pasta.
 Carbohydrates are part of healthy eating; what matters is portion size Whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas and corn can be part of healthy meals and snacks—if you consider how much you eat. Whole-grain foods also are a good source of fiber, which helps keep your gut healthy.

Myth: People with diabetes have to buy special, expensive diabetic foods.
 A healthy meal plan for most people with diabetes is generally the same as a basic MyPlate eating pattern for anyone—low in fat (especially saturated and trans fat), moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and lowfat dairy foods. Diabetic and ”dietetic’’ foods generally do not offer any special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose levels, are usually more expensive and also can have a laxative effect if they contain specific sweeteners, like xylitol or sorbitol.

Myth: People with diabetes are more likely to get colds and other illnesses.
 You are no more likely to get a cold or another illness if you have diabetes. Like most other Americans, people with diabetes should get flu shots. Any illness can make blood sugar levels more difficult to control, and people with diabetes who do get the flu or other infections are more likely than others to go on to develop serious complications.

Myth: If you have type 2 diabetes and your doctor says you need to go on insulin, it means that you have been doing a bad job of controlling your disease.
 Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease that can become more difficult to control over time. When first diagnosed, many people with type 2 diabetes find it relatively easy to keep their blood glucose levels in the normal range with lifestyle changes and oral medications. Over time, however, your body may gradually produces less of its own insulin, meaning that pills may not be enough to keep blood glucose at normal levels. Using insulin to keep blood sugar within a normal range is a good thing, not a bad one.

Myth: Fruit is full of vitamins, so it is OK to eat as much as you want.
 Fruit is a nutrient-rich food, with lots of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, in many cases. Because fruits contain natural sugars, they can—like any food—affect blood glucose levels. Talk to your registered dietitian (RD) about the best way to eat your favorite fruits. He/she can help you adjust the amount, frequency and types of fruits you eat.

Contact Us

120 Waterfront Street, Suite 300
National Harbor, MD 20745

Tel (301) 686-3100
Fax (301) 686-3115

> For The Media

Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Read the latest news and developments facing the school nutrition industry, as well as stay on top of important trends and resources.


> Read the Latest Newsletters

SNA State Associations

The School Nutrition Association has a presence in every state across the country. View links to many of the state associations to find out more about what SNA is doing nationwide. 

> Learn More