March 16th, 2016, The Blind Men & The Elephant

elephantDiabetes creeps up on anyone, as it did with me. This disease affects millions of people – some are aware they have it others are not. Although the disease is so prevalent in this country, the disease – how you get it, how to manage it – continues to be a mystery to many.

Like the blind men and the elephant of ancient lore, many view diabetes from many perspectives. Each blind man has a perception of what an elephant is from its observation of the part he touched.

One can say the same is true with diabetes. Many people have different perceptions of the disease. Without the proper understanding of the disease, it is difficult to take steps that enables them to manage the disease properly. A publication from www.diabetes.org lays out many misconceptions about the disease that are inaccurate, full of stereotypes, and worse, stigma. Here are some of these misconceptions:

  • Diabetes is not that serious of a disease.

Statistics show that diabetes causes more annual deaths than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Uncontrolled, the disease nearly doubles ones' chance of having a heart attack. There are many complications arising from the disease if not properly controlled. However, proper control reduces these complications and potential for death.

  • If you are overweightan above-normal body weight; having a body mass index of 25 to 29.9. or obese, you will eventually develop type 2 diabetes, a condition characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by either a lack of insulin or the body's inability to use insulin efficiently. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults but can appear in younger people as well.

Obesity, while a factor for getting the disease is not the only one. Many factors including genetics, family history, and age are factors determining whether one develops diabetes. In short, not all overweight people develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.

  • Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

Genetics and other unknown factors triggers the Type 1 disease in juveniles. Type 2, affecting mostly adults results from a combination of numerous factors including genetics and lifestyle factors.

The fact is this: being overweight increases the risk of developing the disease as one ages. A diet rich in calories and sugars contribute to weight gain, which in turn could lead to diabetes. Therefore, sugar alone is not the culprit.

  • People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods.

It is not necessary to obtain special foods for diabetics. A wholesome and healthy meal –low in saturated and trans fat, moderate salt and sugar,one of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide fat are butter, margarine, salad dressing, oil, nuts, meat, poultry, fish and some dairy products. Excess calories are stored as body fat, providing the body with a reserve supply of energy and other functions. moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on lean protein1. One of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide protein include meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, dairy products, eggs, and dried beans. Proteins are also used in the body for cell structure, hormones such as insulin, and other functions. Diabetic and “dietetic” foods generally offer no special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose The food you eat gets digested and broken down into a sugar your body's cells can use. This is glucose, one of the simplest forms of sugar levels, are usually more expensive and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols (artificial sugars), sweeteners that produce a smaller rise in blood glucose than other carbohydrates. Their calorie content is about 2 calories per gram. Includes erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. Also known as polyols (PAH-lee-alls.) (

  • If you have diabetes, you should only eat small amounts of starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and pasta.

Moderation in portion size is key. Starchy foods including pasta, bread and potatoes can be part of a healthy meal. When supplemented by whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice and starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, peas and corn can be included in your meals and snacks. In addition to these starchy foods, fruits, beans, milk, yogurt, and sweets are also sources of carbohydrates that you need to count in your meal plan.

  • People with diabetes cannot eat sweets or chocolate.

If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan and combined with exercise, sweets and desserts are ok for diabetics. There 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.

  • You can catch diabetes from someone else.

Diabetes is not contagious. It is not like a cold, flu, tuberculosis, etc. If you are aware of your genetic disposition (family history, etc.) you should start thinking about the possibility of your chances of getting it. Remember, lifestyle, age and genetics are key factors that cause the disease.

  • People with diabetes are more likely to get colds and other illnesses.

There is no correlation showing that diabetics are more likely to catch cold or other illnesses. Doctors advise diabetics to get their flu shots and other vaccines since other factors could cause complications to the disease.

  • If you have type 2 diabetes and your doctor says you need to start using insulin, a hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy, it is to supplement what your body already makes. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin. When the body cannot make enough insulin, it is taken by injection or through use of an insulin pump. It means you are failing to take care of your diabetes properly.

For most people, type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When first diagnosed, many people with type 2 diabetes can keep their blood glucose at a healthy level with oral medications. However, over time, the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin and eventually oral medications may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels normal. Using insulin to get blood glucose levels to a healthy level is a good thing, not a bad one.

  • Fruit are healthy foods. Therefore, it is ok to eat as much of them as you wish.

Fruit is a healthy food. It contains fiber, the part of food that is hard to digest. Foods high in fiber take longer to digest and therefore affect your blood glucose more slowly (i.e. whole wheat bread, prunes and other vegetables) and lots of vitamins and minerals. Because fruits contain carbohydrates, they need to be included in a healthy meal plan. Eating lots of grapes or fruits high in sugar can increase your sugar levels as well. Fruit, like everything else must be consumed in moderation with proper portion control. Dietitians can advise on how much fruit can be eaten.