Today we continue our deep dive into common misconceptions about type 2 diabetes. This blog post is the second of a two-part series designed to clear up conflicting myths and empower you to make healthy eating and lifestyle changes.
Recap of Part 1
In my previous blog post (Part 1), we discussed common misconceptions about the cause of type 2 diabetes. Today we are discussing misconceptions about type 2 diabetes management.
In case you missed Part 1, here is a brief recap:
Misconception #1: Thin people don’t get type 2 diabetes. The truth is that skinny people can indeed develop type 2 diabetes. This is especially true if they consume a high-fat diet and processed foods.
Misconception #2: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes. Sugar by itself does not trigger the onset of type 2 diabetes. However, after a person becomes insulin resistant, added sugars will spike blood sugar.
Misconception #3: There are no symptoms of diabetes. Symptoms vary from person to person based on the severity of the condition, type of diabetes, and onset speed.
Misconception #4: Type 2 diabetes only happens in adults, while type 1 diabetes only happens in children. Type 2 diabetes is increasingly prevalent in children due to the obesity epidemic. Although type 1 diabetes is more common in young people, it may occur at any age.
Misconception #5: Prediabetes is not serious. Take prediabetes seriously because it is, in fact, an early stage of type 2 diabetes. If adequately addressed with healthy eating and lifestyle choices, a person can help themselves avoid severe diabetes and related complications.
If you want to learn more, read Part 1 here. Now let’s dive into five other misconceptions to give you a complete understanding.
Misconception #6: A low-carb diet will control your blood sugar
Low carb diets are surprisingly ineffective at controlling blood sugar in people with diabetes. Because they may help some people lose a few pounds, short term, they may initially appear helpful. However, they lead people on the wrong path because they fail to address insulin resistance, the root cause of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, blood sugar control remains a struggle. The trendy keto diet (a low carb, high fat diet) worsens insulin resistance and shortens lifespan. [Ref 1]
Unfortunately, low-carb diets tend to emphasize high-fat foods that promote inflammation and insulin resistance. In contrast, research shows low-fat, plant-based foods are effective in lowering insulin resistance naturally. [Ref 2] Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas and split peas) are unprocessed carbohydrates that have been shown to help reverse type 2 diabetes. [Ref 3]
Misconception #7: If I am diabetic, I can’t eat anything sweet
The most harmful sweets are loaded with added sugar, fat, and processed ingredients. But this does not mean all sweets are forbidden. Rather than feel deprived, look for a healthier version of your traditional sweet treat. I highly recommend you try my chocolate smoothie recipe:
1 frozen banana
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk or almond milk
1 pitted date (optional)
Directions: Blend the ingredients until smooth
Fresh fruit is a great way to satisfy your desire for something sweet. Research shows that whole fruits such as berries, grapes, and apples help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. [Ref 4]
The bottom line is that it is possible to eat healthily and still enjoy the pleasure of food that tastes good.
Misconception #8: It is unsafe to exercise with diabetes
During exercise, people who take diabetes medication are at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hypoglycemia causes dizziness, sweating, fast heartbeat, confusion, and even loss of consciousness. However, with the necessary precautions, regular exercise is a safe element of diabetes management.
Physical activity is invaluable because it significantly improves one’s cardiovascular health and blood sugar control. Studies show that a simple habit of walking after a meal helps lowers blood glucose and Improves A1c levels long-term. [Ref 5]
If you take diabetes medications, you must take precautions to avoid low blood glucose with exercise. Check your blood sugar before and after exercising and eat something in advance. Keep snacks available, such as dates or raisins, to raise your blood sugar quickly if needed.
Misconception #9: There is nothing you can do to prevent complications
With diabetes, there are plenty of things that you can do to avoid complications and maintain your health and independence. Create a healthy lifestyle with nutrient-rich foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Exercise and get enough sleep as well.
With a healthy lifestyle, complications of diabetes are avoidable. Based on science, we now know that most cases of amputation, blindness, heart disease, and kidney failure are preventable because they are linked to unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle. Poor health is not an inevitable consequence of one’s family history. Instead, we can protect our organs and tissues through nutritious food and lifestyle changes that help us control our blood sugar and support our health sustainably.
Misconception #10: More medicine is the solution
Because insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes) is a lifestyle disease, we can’t address it by simply taking more medicine. Similarly, it’s futile to switch from one medication to the next, hunting for a better pill or injection. To get the best results, prioritize healthy eating and lifestyle changes, including whole plant-based foods, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction. Remarkably, these beneficial changes support healthy blood sugar levels and well-being.
1. Seidelmann SB, Claggett B, Cheng S, et al. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. The Lancet Public Health. 2018;3(9):e419-e428.
2. Tonstad S, Butler T, Yan R, et al. Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2009;32:791–796.
3. Ley SH, Hamdy O, Mohan V, Hu FB. Prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: dietary components and nutritional strategies. Lancet. 2014 Jun 7; 383(9933):1999-2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24910231/
4. Muraki I, Imamura F, Manson JE, et al. Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies [published correction appears in BMJ. 2013;347:f6935]. BMJ. 2013;347:f5001. Published 2013 Aug 28. doi:10.1136/bmj.f5001 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3978819/
5. Pahra D, Sharma N, Ghai S, Hajela A, Bhansali S, Bhansali A. Impact of post-meal and one-time daily exercise in patient with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized crossover study. Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2017;9:64. Published 2017 Aug 31. doi:10.1186/s13098-017-0263-8
Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a physician, health coach, workplace wellness consultant, and speaker. She helps people heal themselves with food. Through wellness workshops and courses, she helps companies create healthy, energetic teams.
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