Diabetes: What’s True and False?
a) your second cousin’s next-door neighbor’s aunt
b) your best friend
c) some Internet site in a language you can’t understand
d) your doctor or health care professional
Did you guess d? You’re right! There’s a lot of info and advice out there about diabetes, but some of it is wrong or bad. And following advice that’s wrong could make people with diabetes really sick. Ask your doctor or a member of your diabetes health care team if you ever come across information that doesn’t seem quite right or sounds too good to be true.
Here’s some stuff you might hear about diabetes — and the facts about what’s true and what’s not.
True or False: Eating Too Much Sugar Causes Diabetes
False: When kids get type 1 diabetes, it’s because their bodies can’t make insulin anymore. The insulin-making cells in the pancreas (say: PAN-kree-us) get destroyed, and it doesn’t have anything to do with eating sugar. This isn’t true for type 2 diabetes either, but there is a connection between type 2 diabetes and being overweight. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas can still make insulin (say: IN-suh-lin), but the insulin doesn’t work like it should. Eating too much sugar (or foods with sugar, like candy or regular soda) can cause weight gain, and if this causes a person to become overweight, it can lead to type 2 diabetes.
True or False: Kids With Diabetes Can Never Eat Sweets
False: Kids with diabetes can eat some sweets — as part of a balanced, healthy diet. Like everyone else, a person with diabetes shouldn’t eat too many sweets because they are high in calories and they don’t have many vitamins and minerals.
True or False: Kids With Diabetes Can Exercise
True: Exercise is important for all kids — with or without diabetes. Exercise has many benefits. It can help you get to a healthy weight, it’s good for your heart and lungs, it can improve your mood, and it’s great for your diabetes. Your diabetes health care team can help you and your parents come up with an exercise plan that’s good for you.
True or False: You Can’t Catch Diabetes From Another Person
True: Diabetes is not contagious, so you can’t catch it from someone who has it.
True or False: Kids Can Outgrow Diabetes
False: Kids don’t grow out of their diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed. And once these cells are destroyed, they won’t make insulin ever again. So kids with type 1 will always have to take insulin. Some kids with type 2 diabetes may be able to lower their blood sugar levels, and sometimes even stop taking diabetes medicine if they eat right and exercise. But throughout their lives, these people will probably always tend to get high blood sugar levels again if they don’t stay active or gain too much weight.
True or False: All People With Diabetes Need to Take Insulin
False: All people with type 1 diabetes need insulin injections because their pancreases don’t make insulin anymore. Some, but not all, kids with type 2 diabetes have to take insulin to help manage their blood sugar levels.
True or False: Insulin Can’t Cure Diabetes
True: Insulin can treat diabetes, but it can’t cure it. Insulin helps get glucose (say: GLOO-kose) out of the blood and into the body’s cells, where it can be used for energy. This helps keep blood sugar levels in the normal range. But taking insulin doesn’t change the reasons why the diabetes started in the first place.
True or False: Tablets or Pills for Diabetes Are a Form of Insulin
False: The kind of diabetes medicines that a person swallows are not a type of insulin. The acids and digestive juices in the stomach and intestines would destroy insulin if you took it in tablet or pill form. The only way to get insulin into the body is with a shot. Some people with type 2 diabetes do take pills and tablets that can help the body make more insulin or use the insulin it already makes better. But pills for diabetes can’t help kids with type 1 diabetes because their bodies can’t make insulin anymore.
True or False: Kids With Diabetes Still Have to Take Their Insulin or Pills When They’re Sick
True: When you’re sick, especially if you’re throwing up or not eating much, taking insulin or pills for your diabetes might not seem to make sense. But it’s really important to keep taking insulin or other medicines for your diabetes when you’re sick to help your body get better. Your mom or dad will know how to help you with your diabetes when you’re not feeling right.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013