‘Eating too much sugar causes diabetes’ and other myths

theGRIO REPORT- In African-American communities in New York, where diabetes is a chronic problem, the death rate is even higher. African-Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes...

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Every 90 minutes one New Yorker dies as a result of diabetes. Nearly 650,000 New York adults have diabetes, an increase of 200,000 in a decade. Most of these cases are due to type 2 diabetes.

Those are the staggering numbers released by the Department of Health earlier this month.

In African-American communities in New York, where diabetes is a chronic problem, the death rate is even higher.  African-Americans are twice as likely to have diabetes as compared to whites and the disease is more prevalent and deadly in poorer neighborhoods.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Some people call it “just a touch of sugar.” Others see it as the kiss of death. But it’s neither — not if the disease is taken seriously, addressed without fear or old wives’ tales on the best way to treat the condition. Here are some of the most common myths about diabetes and dieting – along with fact-based information you can rely on. Trust me.

Myth: If you eat too many sweets, you’ll get diabetes.

Fact: Diabetes isn’t caused by eating too much sugar or sweets; it’s caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. However, eating foods high in sugar, fat, and calories can cause you to become overweight, which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Myth: Type 1 diabetes is more serious than type 2 diabetes.

Fact: All types of diabetes are serious. Type 1 and type 2 involve elevated blood glucose levels which can lead to serious complications such as nerve damage, foot ulcers, amputations, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and blindness.

Myth: If you don’t take diabetes medicine, your diabetes must not be serious.

Fact: Not everyone who has diabetes takes medicine for it. If your body produces some insulin, losing weight, adopting healthy eating, and getting regular physical activity can help insulin work more effectively. However, even if you don’t take medicine now, you need to keep a close eye on your condition. Diabetes does change through time, and diabetes medicine may be needed later.

Myth: If you get diabetes, insulin will cure it.

Fact: Insulin doesn’t cure diabetes. It helps to control diabetes by keeping the blood glucose from rising. At this point, there is no cure, only medicines and lifestyle changes that can help you manage it better.

Myth: If you have diabetes you can expect to lose your sight and limbs eventually.

Fact: Having diabetes doesn’t mean you’re doomed to loss of sight or amputations. Keeping your diabetes under control can prevent the most serious complications.

Myth: Dessert is off limits if you have diabetes.

Fact: While eating too many sugary foods is not a good idea, you can have an occasional dessert. It should be counted as part of your total carbohydrate intake for the day. Meaning, if you plan to have a piece of wedding cake, limit the bread, potatoes and other carbs you eat that day.

Myth: If you love bread, potatoes, and pasta, you’re out of luck. Carbs and starches are all off limits if you have diabetes.

Fact: Carbohydrates and starches are part of a healthy diet – even for people with diabetes. You have to control your portions, but you can enjoy a nice pasta salad or a few potatoes if you like.

Myth: Certain foods such as grapefruit, celery, or cabbage soup, can burn fat and make you lose weight.

Fact: No foods can burn fat; only exercise does that job. Some foods with caffeine may speed up the way your body uses calories for a short time, but they don’t cause weight loss.

Myth: Eating after 8 p.m. causes weight gain.

Fact: It doesn’t matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight. No matter when you eat, your body will store extra calories as fat.

Myth: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.

Fact: Studies show that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day tend to be heavier than people who eat a healthy breakfast and eat four or five small meals a day. This may be because people who skip meals tend to feel hungrier later on, and eat more than they normally would. It may also be that eating many small meals throughout the day helps people control their appetites. If you take diabetes medication to control blood glucose, you are at risk of low blood sugar when you skip meals.

If you’ve read this article, you or someone you care about has probably been diagnosed with diabetes. That means your healthcare provider has already told you what you need to do to take care of yourself. But depending on your understanding, your healthcare provider’s communication style and your specific case, you may have come away with more questions than answers. To learn more about diabetes, read The African American Guide To Living Well With Diabetes.

Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD is an award winning registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is the author of The African American Guide To Living Well With Diabetes and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes. Follow Brown-Riggs on twitter @eatingsoulfully.