Truths and Myths About Diabetes

By Eileen B. Wyner, NP
Bulfinch Medical Group

The Internet is a wonderful thing. We have all hopped on and traveled the information highway, but like all road trips, it’s easy to make a few wrong turns. There is so much information available and it can be overwhelming to decide what is really true or might be true. I thought I would look at 5 common topics about Diabetes that my patients have brought to me over the years and sort out what is myth and what is truth.

True, False, Question MarkI don’t want to start taking insulin. My uncle went blind /started dialysis/lost his leg after he started insulin— Blindness, dialysis, and amputation are serious complications of poorly controlled Diabetes. Years of hyperglycemia may lead to retinopathy, renal failure, and lower extremity wounds resulting in amputation. Starting to use insulin doesn’t cause these complications to happen. In fact, starting insulin may help to prevent these types of complications.

I don’t want to be on insulin. I don’t need it—We all need insulin. It’s a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and it allows the body to convert food into energy for activity. If you don’t have Diabetes your pancreas makes and utilizes insulin automatically. If you do have Diabetes your pancreas isn’t working as efficiently as it should. It may not be making and releasing enough insulin into the system as effectively as the body requires. If you have Type 1 Diabetes, your pancreas isn’t making any insulin and you need to inject insulin to survive.

I have to start insulin because my Diabetes is really bad and I didn’t try hard enough to take care of it— Insulin is just one of many medicines used for treating Diabetes. If your health care provider determines that you need to start taking insulin, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your Diabetes is getting worse. Diabetes is a chronic and progressive disease that we do not yet have a cure for, and ultimately a large percentage of people with Type 2 Diabetes need to self inject insulin over time. Far from being “the beginning of the end” for most people, starting insulin is the beginning of better health. You will have better blood-sugar control, which translates into feeling better, and possibly halting or reversing complications.

I don’t want to start insulin because I will gain weight and I am already overweight—Now, there is some truth to this one. Some people with Type 2 Diabetes may gain weight after starting insulin therapy. It’s important to know, however, that the insulin itself does not increase your weight. Your body begins to process blood glucose more efficiently when the insulin starts to work and the result can be weight gain. This is one reason unexplained weight loss can be an early symptom of Diabetes. It is important to realize that any weight gain usually levels out as your blood sugar gets under better control, and not everyone gains weight when they begin taking insulin.

I am afraid of the artificial sweeteners because they are bad for you—There is no definitive research to show that there are any health dangers to using acesulfame potassium (Sunett), aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), or sucralose (Splenda) according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All these agents have been approved for use.

The truth is, whenever you have a question about your health, check with your health care provider so you know what myth is and what truth is.

Health, Nutrition

Nutrition Myths

By Debra Hollon, MS, RD, CDE, LDN
Senior Clinical Nutritionist

This is the first post in a series on health and wellness myths. Explore the article below to lean more about 5 common nutrition MYTVegetables falling into basketHS.

If you’re dieting, fruit juice is better than soda—Soft drinks have been criticized for containing a large amount of sugar per serving, while fruit juices are regarded as a healthier alternative. Fruit juices often do contain more vitamins than soda, but they also have large amounts of fructose—a natural sugar found in fruit. One 16oz bottle of fruit juice contains the same amount of sugar/carbohydrates as 4 medium pieces of fruit. For a healthy beverage choice, water is a better option.

All fats are bad—With all the media attention on the connection between fat and heart disease and obesity, it’s easy to believe a healthy diet shouldn’t include any fat. The truth is we need some fat in our diet: fats help our bodies absorb nutrients such as Vitamins A and E, build cell membranes and give you a sense of satiety—that “full” feeling you get after eating. But not all fats are the same: saturated fat, found in many meat and dairy products, has been shown to raise cholesterol while unsaturated fats like Omega 3’s are known to promote heart health. For a healthy diet, try to limit saturated fats and/or replace them with the healthier unsaturated fats from fish and nuts.

Brown sugar is better than white sugar—Brown rice is a better nutritional choice than white rice, and whole wheat bread is a better option than white. Brown sugar, therefore, must be better than white sugar, right?  Whole grains are a good source of fiber, Vitamin E, iron, B Vitamins and a number of other nutrients, many of which are lost when whole grains are processed into white bread and white rice. Brown sugar, meanwhile, is regular white sugar with a little molasses added in and has roughly the same nutritional value as plain white sugar. In other words, choosing brown sugar over white sugar is not the same thing as choosing 100% whole wheat bread over white bread.

Avoid carbohydrate to lose weight—There are a number of popular fad diets out there that advise limiting carbohydrate in your diet in order to lose weight. The weight loss achieved through these diets can be dramatic, but it’s not necessarily because of the limited carbohydrate intake—many of these diets also limit the number of calories consumed as well. Losing weight is as simple as burning more calories than you consume. Exercise along with a well-balanced diet that includes lean protein, whole grains, dairy, and fruits and veggies and is low in saturated fat will work just as well.

Calories eaten late at night turn to fat—This one does have a small kernel of truth: calories you don’t burn in a day are stored in your body as fat. However, the time of day you consume calories doesn’t matter; if your body can’t use them for immediate energy, they’ll be converted to fat regardless of what time of day you eat.