Diabetes Confusion: It’s Everywhere


A few week’s ago AOL’s welcome screen picked up an article I wrote about a cartoonist with type 1 diabetes. Two things happened. One, the article got a burst of comments — 116.

Two, it confirmed how confused most people are about diabetes. About its symptoms, causes, about healthy eating and managing blood sugar. And most of the comments came from people who have diabetes.

So, I’m posting some of the comments, and below them I am indicating what is true and accurate. Since diabetes is a self-managed condition, you better know what you’re dealing with so you can manage it. Further, you can’t create the long, healthy and vital life you can have, if the rules of the road you’re following are driving you straight into a ditch.

Comment: No type of diabetes, 1 or 2, is caused by obesity, please do your research before commenting. I know people that were of average weight when diagnosed with either one rather than obese individuals. Diabetes is and always has been an autoimmune disease.

Truth: Twenty percent, 1 in 5 people who get Type 2 diabetes, are not obese or even overweight. Yet, most are, and there’s controversy whether being overweight is a cause of Type 2 diabetes or a result. Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, which is believed to be influenced by genetics, being overweight and sedentary. As for the last statement, only type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where one’s own cells attack the body’s insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

Comment: I am well aware of the complications of diabetes seeing as I am one. I have been told that diabetes is an autoimmune disease several times: However, the fact that Type 2 diabetes can be cured by a bypass operation indicates that that theory may not be correct.

Truth: Again, only Type 1 is an autoimmune condition. As for gastric bypass, many people with Type 2 diabetes who undergo a bypass operation are able to reduce or get off their medication. However, I believe that they are not considered “cured.” Rather, the symptoms of diabetes have become dormant. Should they put on weight again, the symptoms can recur.

Comment: I have Type 1 and I would never wish to have Type 2! Just because you have Type 1 means you can’t have sugar, but it also means you can’t get overweight!

Truth: Neither statements here are completely true. Anyone with diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2, can have sugar. The same diet recommended for all Americans is recommended for people with diabetes and it may include sweets. However, if you’re trying to eat a healthy diet and/or trying to lose weight, sweets are recommended sparingly. Second, having Type 1 diabetes does not mean you can’t be or become overweight. Like anyone else, eat too many calories without burning them off and you will gain weight.

Comment: I feel sorry for those with Type 1 diabetes. I do not feel sorry for those (or most of those) with Type 2, because it was brought on by choice. Please keep in mind there is a big difference. Much like the difference between the few who cannot work and those who will not work.

Truth: Likely no one with Type 2 diabetes would say they chose to have it. While it seems implied here that Type 2s cause their disease by being overweight and sedentary, as you now know one can be slim and active and get Type 2 diabetes due to a strong genetic component.

Comment: Last research I did on Type 1 diabetics, [I read that there were] about 16 million in the U.S.

Truth: According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, there are approximately 3 million people with Type 1 diabetes in the U.S.

Those are only a few of the many, many comments that were inaccurate. But I also want to share two more comments because they were spot on:

Comment: Diabetes isn’t a death sentence, ignorance is. Learn about your condition and accept the fact that you had no choice in the matter. If you monitor your sugars, have regular check ups, follow a nutritionist’s expertise and diet, and figure out what normal foods spike your blood sugars you too can live a long and healthy life.

Comment: I cannot believe some of the posts I have just read. I have had type 1 diabetes for the last 53 years and have gone through every emotion from anger to “why me.” I have been very fortunate not to have any of the complications that can occur from this disease. I must thank my mother for keeping me healthy for all the years I lived at home. When I was found to have diabetes, I was 7 years old and will turn 60 in Oct. I gave birth to two beautiful daughters and have five grandchildren, all of whom are healthy … I hope that someday there is a cure, but until then I will live my life to the fullest and not let diabetes win. I feel sorry for the people who think their lives are over because of being diagnosed with diabetes and become bitter and slaves to it. You have to take charge and decide how you want to live.

Here’s your quiz, if you think: 

  • Being told you have “Just a touch of sugar” is insignificant
  • Only kids get Type 1 diabetes 
  • Diabetes causes blindness and amputations 
  • Type 2 isn’t as serious as type 1 
  • You can’t have diabetes because you have no symptoms 
  • You can’t prevent your kids from getting diabetes

Or, if you’re just not sure whether what you know is true or not, I’m going to recommend a great book, my own which was written with 21 leading diabetes experts, “50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life and the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It.”

Don’t go another day with your head in the sand; you can’t have your best health until you know what you know is true. And don’t miss out making sure now that you’ll be here when they find a cure.

Originally published on Huffington Post.

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11 years ago

Thank you for taking the time to post these confusing statements and telling the truth.  I have had the disease of diabetes (type 1) for 40 years. Blaming type 2 diabetes on people being overweight, and that they have brought the disease on to themselves is CRUEL. Nearly every person who is diagnosed with a chronic illness be it Diabetes, Cancer, Parkinson’s, MS, go through thinking they brought the disease onto themselves.  I have always felt that if YOU don’t have the DISEASE of diabetes, don’t be telling me why I have it, what I can eat or any other… Read more »

Amy Stockwell Mercer
11 years ago

Thank you Riva! Well said :)

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