Type 2 Diabetes is a complicated disease. Put simply, it is a chronic and potentially dangerous condition that develops when the body loses its ability to process glucose, or sugar. But what causes it, what can prevent it and what can be done to manage it?
That’s where things can get confusing.
“While it’s true that people who have obesity or overweight are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it’s not entirely true to say that a high-sugar diet causes diabetes. It’s more nuanced than that,” said David Ahn, M.D., program director of the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center at Hoag. “It’s also not true that managing diabetes means cutting out all forms of sugar from a person’s diet.”
To better understand the relationship between sugar and diabetes, Dr. Ahn recommends scheduling a visit with a diabetes education specialist or endocrinologist (physician or PA who specializes in metabolism and diabetes) at Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center at Hoag by calling 949-764-8065.
In general, Dr. Ahn offered some tips to separate fact from some of the biggest sugar myths out there.
Myth 1: Having diabetes means never eating fruit again
“While fruit does contain sugar, it has a low glycemic index and is also full of healthy fiber, which can help control your blood sugar,” Dr. Ahn said. “In moderation, you can incorporate healthy fruits and vegetables into your diet, and count them among your daily carbohydrates.”
Myth 2: Having diabetes means never eating sugar again
“Many otherwise-nutritious foods, such as fruit, vegetables and dairy naturally contain sugars. They also add much-needed nutrients to your body, so avoiding all forms of sugar may be overly restrictive,” Dr. Ahn said. “The foods to limit are those that offer sugar and fat, but little else. Processed foods and candy are important to avoid, as are foods that contain a lot of added sugars, such as sweet yogurts and cereals.”
Myth 3: Having diabetes means never drinking alcohol again
“When it comes to sugar myths, the role of alcohol can be extremely confusing,” Dr. Ahn said. “Some studies suggest that certain amounts of alcohol can actually help control blood sugar, while others point, quite definitively, to the fact that alcohol can interact with diabetes medications to result in dangerously low blood sugar levels. While it is generally OK to enjoy the occasional drink, the most important thing to do is to have a personalized discussion with your doctor well before happy hour.”
If left unmanaged, persistent high blood sugar levels can have serious health consequences leading to heart disease, nerve damage, poor blood circulation in the feet, eye-related complications and kidney disease. To learn more about diabetes management, visit Hoag.