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Diabetes: What's True and False?

Sorting True From False

If you're like most people with diabetes, you'll get all kinds of advice about it from friends and family or online. Some of this information is wrong. Here's the truth about some of the common things you might hear.

 

Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes? 

No, it doesn't. Type 1 diabetes happens when cells in the pancreas that make insulin are destroyed. This happens because something goes wrong with the body's immune system. It has nothing to do with how much sugar a person eats.

Sugar doesn't cause diabetes. But there is one way that sugar can influence whether a person gets type 2 diabetes. Consuming too much sugar (or sugary foods and drinks) can make people put on weight. Gaining weight leads to type 2 diabetes in some people. Of course, eating too much sugar isn't the only reason why people gain weight. Weight gain from eating too much of any food can make a person's chance of getting diabetes greater.

Can people with diabetes eat sweets?

Yes! You can have your cake and eat it too, just not the whole cake! Like everyone, people with diabetes should put the brakes on eating too many sweets. But you can still enjoy sweets sometimes.

Do people "grow out of" diabetes?

People with type 1 diabetes don't grow out of it. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin and won't make it again. People with type 1 diabetes will always need to take insulin, at least until scientists find a cure for diabetes. 

People with type 2 diabetes will always have a tendency to get high blood sugar levels. But if they take steps to live a healthier life, it can sometimes lower their blood sugar. If people eat healthy foods and exercise enough to get their blood sugar levels back on track, doctors might say they can stop taking insulin or other medicines. 

Can you catch diabetes from a person who has it?

No. Diabetes is not contagious. That means you can't get it from being around someone who has it. People with diabetes have to inherit genes that make them more likely to get diabetes.

Can people with diabetes feel when their blood sugar levels are high or low?

No. You may notice some things happening to your body if blood sugar levels are very high or low. For example, you might feel more thirsty, pee a lot, or feel weaker or more tired than usual. But the only way to know for sure if blood sugar levels are high or low is to test them. 

People who don't test regularly may have blood sugar levels that are high enough to damage the body without them even realizing it.

Do all people with diabetes need to take insulin?

All people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections. That's because the pancreas doesn't make insulin anymore.

Some people with type 2 diabetes have to take insulin — and they may need to take other diabetes medicines as well. But there are people with type 2 diabetes who don't need to take insulin. They can manage their blood sugar levels by eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and sometimes taking other diabetes medicines. 

Does insulin cure diabetes?

No. Insulin isn't a cure for diabetes. It just helps to manage the disease. Insulin helps get glucose out of the blood and into the cells, where it's used for energy. When you do that, it keeps blood sugar levels under control. 

Insulin won't fix the reason why a person got diabetes in the first place. But even though insulin can't make diabetes go away, scientists are working to find a cure.

Can I take insulin as a pill?

No. Insulin gets destroyed by the acid and digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines. So people who need insulin — like people with type 1 diabetes — have to take it as a shot or through an insulin pump. That way, it gets into the body without going through the digestive system. 

People with type 2 diabetes might take pills, but those pills aren't insulin. They are medicines that help the body make more insulin or use insulin more effectively. Some people with type 2 diabetes need to take insulin too.

Do people need to take diabetes medicines even when they are sick?

Yes. In fact, being sick can actually make the body need more diabetes medicine. If you take insulin, you might have to adjust your dose when you're sick, but you still need to take insulin. 

People with type 2 diabetes may need to adjust their diabetes medicines when they are sick. Talk to your diabetes health care team to be sure you know what to do.

Can people with diabetes exercise or play sports?

Yes! Exercise is important for all people — with or without diabetes! Exercise helps to keep weight under control. It's good for your heart and lungs. It relieves stress. And it's great for blood sugar control. 

Talk to your diabetes health care team about exercising and managing your blood sugar.

Ask Your Care Team First

If you ever come across information you're not sure about, ask your diabetes health care team if it's true or false. Watch out if someone tells you to do the opposite of what your care team has told you. Always check with your doctors to get the truth on what's helpful and what's harmful.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2016

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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