Diabetes Month dispelling Diabetes Myths
Newswise, October 18, 2011--November is designated
American Diabetes Month and while raising awareness this
month about preventing diabetes is important, focusing
on proper treatment is just as important for those
living with the disease.
Myths and misconceptions
about diabetes often lead people to make
poor care decisions based on bad
information, says Anath Shalev, M.D.,
director of the University of Alabama at
Birmingham Comprehensive Diabetes Center.
Shalev, professor of medicine in the
Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism,
says the errors are costly: Diabetes kills more people
each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. More
than 25 million American children and adults live with
diabetes, according to the American Diabetes
Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention projects that one in three Americans will
have this disease by 2050.
Shalev says it is first important to
understand genetic and other factors influence the
development of diabetes. “Type 1 diabetes is caused by
an autoimmune process that destroys the cells in the
pancreas that produce insulin, the hormone responsible
for maintaining normal blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is
the result of insulin resistance, which most often is
caused by obesity,” he says.
During American Diabetes
Month, familiarize yourself with these
misconceptions about the causes of and
treatment for diabetes:
Myth: Sugar or eating sweets is the cause
It’s not the sugar; it’s the effect of too many calories
of any kind, Shalev says. Obesity is a major risk factor
for Type 2 diabetes. Lack of exercise is another major
contributor, especially if a sedentary lifestyle is
combined with large portions of high-calorie, fatty
Myth: Only obese people get diabetes.
“While obesity is the strongest risk factor for Type 2
diabetes, patients with Type 1 diabetes or other less
common forms often are very lean,” Shalev says. “I have
seen several triathletes who are Type 1 diabetics.”
Myth: Type 1 diabetes, often called
juvenile diabetes, only affects the very young.
Type 1 diabetes can affect people at any age, Shalev
says, though it is more common in younger age groups.
“Excessive thirst, urination and weight loss should
always be warning signs to anyone of any age and warrant
a doctor’s visit,” she adds.
Myth: There is no treatment for Type 2
Some people look at their family tree and their
waistline and resign themselves to becoming diabetic.
“There are people who have a constellation of genes that
put them at a higher risk,” Shalev says. “But that
doesn’t mean they will develop diabetes.” In most cases,
Type 2 diabetes can be delayed and sometimes even
prevented with adequate lifestyle modifications,
including exercise and healthy diet, Shalev says.
Monitoring and early intervention also are important.
Myth: Starting insulin injections in Type
2 diabetes is the beginning of the end.
Not true, Shalev says. Patients often panic and resist
when told injections are necessary, but it’s the next
logical step if oral medications don’t work. Shalev says
emerging research suggests that starting insulin
treatment early also can reduce strain on
insulin-producing cells. And, the need for insulin
injections is not always permanent; some patients with
Type 2 diabetes eventually can stop taking insulin if
they also make lifestyle changes.
Myth: Kids with Type 1 diabetes can’t
have anything sweet.
People with diabetes once were discouraged from having
any sweets, but advances such as fast-acting insulin
therapies and monitoring protocols allow for the
occasional treat. A child can have a piece of birthday
cake, for example, as long as they receive the proper
insulin dose beforehand and are monitored closely. “It’s
an intensive insulin regimen, so patients have to check
more frequently, but they gain more freedom,” Shalev
About the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes
The UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center is a
universitywide interdisciplinary research center
comprising approximately 190 faculty from 10 schools and
departments. It is the umbrella for varied research
projects, programs and awards, including the Diabetes
Research and Training Center, one of seven funded by the
National Institutes of Health. The center offers
provides state-of-the-art specialty clinics to meet the
needs of patients with diabetes and offers
diabetes-related conferences, seminars and training
opportunities for scientists, clinicians and the public.
For more information go to http://diabetes.dom.uab.edu.