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Diabetes Facts and Myths

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD

Diabetes: What's True and What's False?

You want to educate yourself about diabetes so you can help your child manage it. This means having the right information. There's so much online content about diabetes, but it's not always accurate. Even well-meaning family members and friends can give bad information. And this can hurt your child.

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 sugar can play a role in type 2 diabetes. Eating too much sugar (or sugary foods and drinks) can make people put on weight. Gaining too much weight can lead 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 chances of developing type 2 diabetes greater.

Can people with diabetes eat sweets?

Yes! People with diabetes can still enjoy sweets sometimes. But like everyone, they should put the brakes on eating too many.

Do kids "grow out of" diabetes?

Kids 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.

Kids with type 2 will always have a tendency to get high blood sugar levels. But sometimes taking steps to live a healthier life can 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. 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, not well enough to depend on. Kids and teens may notice some things happening to their body if blood sugar levels are very high or low. 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 because the pancreas can't make insulin anymore.

Some people with type 2 diabetes have to take insulin. But some 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. This keeps blood sugar levels under control.

Can my child 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.

Do kidse need to take diabetes medicines even when they're sick?

Yes. In fact, being sick can actually make the body need more diabetes medicine. If your child takes insulin, you might have to adjust the dose when he or she is sick. Kids with type 2 diabetes also might need their medicines adjusted when they're sick. Talk to the diabetes health care team to make sure you know what to do.

Can people with diabetes exercise?

Yes! Exercise helps to keep weight under control and is good for the heart and lungs. It relieves stress, and is great for blood sugar control.

Ask Your Care Team First

Talk to the diabetes health care team when you see information that doesn't seem quite right, sounds too good to be true, or contradicts what they've told you. Never make changes to your child's diabetes management plan without asking someone on the health care team first.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2018