Do you know someone with diabetes?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost everyone knows someone who has diabetes.1 An estimated 25.8 million people in the United States—roughly 1 in 12 people—have the disease, but what exactly is diabetes and what are some common misconceptions?2
Diabetes: The Basics
Most of us know someone with diabetes, but do we really know what that means? Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body uses digested food for growth and energy, but before we can really understand diabetes, it helps to know and understand the role and importance of glucose, insulin and the pancreas.
- What is glucose? Glucose, or sugar, is the body’s main source of energy and comes from the food we eat, like pasta, fruit, starchy vegetables, dairy, and bread.3-4
- What is insulin? Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels and provide engergy.5
- It works like a key, opening the doors to the cells of our body, allowing the glucose in our bloodstream to enter and fuel our cells.5
What does the pancreas do? The pancreas produces insulin to help move glucose from the blood into the cells and other organs. In people with diabetes, the pancreas tries to increase the production of insulin, causing further damage to the organ.6
So…what is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus, more commonly known as
diabetes, is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose that occur in the body when there are defects in the production or action of insulin.7-8 More simply, diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the body can’t use glucose normally.1 There are two main types of the disease – type I and type II.
Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease accounting for 5-10% of diagnosed cases in the US.1 Accounting for 90-95% of diagnosed cases,
type II diabetes is the most common form of the disease in the United States.1
Do you know the truth about diabetes?
Put your knowledge to the test when checking out some of the commonly held beliefs about the disease.
Myths & Facts:
(courtesy of the American Diabetes Association)2
Myth: Eating too much sugar causes type II diabetes.
Fact: The answer is not so simple. Type I diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease; type II diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors such as excess weight, physical inactivity and poor diet.
Myth: Diabetes is not that serious of a disease.
Fact: If you manage your diabetes properly, you can prevent or delay diabetes complications. However, diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
Myth: If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type II diabetes.
Fact: Although being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role. Unfortunately, many people disregard the other risk factors for diabetes and think that weight is the only risk factor for type II diabetes. Most overweight people never develop type II diabetes, and many people with type II diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.
Myth: People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods.
Fact: A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone – low in saturated and trans-fat, moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on whole grain foods, vegetables and fruit.
Myth: If you have diabetes, you should only eat small amounts of starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta.
Fact: Starchy foods can be part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas and corn can be included in your meals and snacks, talk with your health care team to figure out the right amount for you.
Myth: People with diabetes can't eat sweets or chocolate.
Fact: If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan, or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with diabetes. They are no more "off limits" to people with diabetes than they are to people without diabetes. The key to sweets is to have a very small portion and save them for special occasions so you focus your meal on more healthful foods.