Diabetes fact or fiction

Diabetes isn’t just found in overweight people.

What better time than National Diabetes Month to sort fact from fiction? Metro asked Dr. Anthony Cannon of the American Diabetes Association to clear up some myths for us.

 Eating a lot of sugar and desserts causes diabetes

“This isn’t true. People think if they consume large amounts of sugar, they’ll get diabetes. It can aggravate an existing problem, but in itself it won’t cause diabetes. People look at simple carbohydrates [like] sugar and ice cream and cakes. But you have to look at total carbohydrate intake as a whole [to assess your risk].”

 Diabetes is genetic and not caused by lifestyle
“That’s partly true. It’s caused by environmental and genetic factors. There’s an epidemic I call diabesity, because obesity and diabetes are linked. We can control environmental factors with what I call medical nutritional behavior. I teach my patients to moderate their diets. Once people get to age 30, though, it’s very hard to get them to change.”

  Diabetes affects certain ethnic groups more than others
“This is true. Asian, Latino, African-Americans and Native Americans are all high risk for type-2 diabetes. But it isn’t simply their genetics. There’s a strong element of cultural influence.”

 Diabetes is a manageable disease, not a killer one
“It’s a chronic condition that can be managed with drugs and lifestyle changes, and people can live a long time with it. But diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney disease and lower extremity amputations. There is data that enables us to predict for the first time in generations that a whole generation won’t live as long as previous ones, because diabetes causes high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. This is an amazing reversal of the trend in longevity.”

Diabetes only affects people who are overweight
“That’s actually a myth. I have had patients who are razor-thin who have insulin resistance and develop diabetes. We have to be very careful about categorizing it as a disease that only overweight and obese people get. I recommend everyone over 30 get a blood test to make sure they are not prediabetic.”


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