5 (Un)Common Myths about Diabetes

  • By Alyssa Grams
  • 14 Jun, 2017

Did you know insulin cures type 1 diabetes? You may have thought so, but you're wrong. Let's clear up other misconceptions there may be about diabetes.

Diabetes is a complex disease that millions of Canadians struggle with. In Alberta alone, there are 1 million people suffering from diabetes and prediabetes. With so many people affected, it is easy to create generalizations about what a group of people go through, even though everyone manages their diabetes in different ways.

Because of this, we want to do debunk some common and not so common myths about diabetes.

Common Myth #1: Insulin is a cure for diabetes.

Currently, there is no cure for diabetes . Insulin is only a maintenance tool that helps regulate and control diabetes. Insulin injections—which keep blood glucose levels in check—act as a substitute for individuals who cannot produce insulin on their own or are insulin intolerant.

Common Myth #2: Only overweight or old people get diabetes.

You are at an increased risk for type 1 diabetes [CJ1]   if you have a parent or sibling who has diabetes because type 1 is genetic—a predisposition pattern is passed down through families, although the inheritance pattern is unknown. Weight and age factors do contribute to your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. However, you are also at risk of type 2 diabetes with any of the following factors: a family member has diabetes, you are part of a high risk group (Hispanic, Native American, South Asian, Asian, or of African descent), or if you have high blood pressure, to name a few.

Many people don’t realize that type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas; it isn’t caused by poor diet or lack of exercise. Type 1 diabetes is believed to be genetic or brought about through exposure to certain viruses. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t properly use the insulin that is released or when the body doesn’t make enough insulin. Although weight and age do contribute to your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, there are other factors, including diabetes history in your family, descendency (Hispanic, Native American, South Asian, Asian, and African descents have a higher risk), and blood pressure, to name a few.

Common Myth #3: You must avoid sugar at all costs if you have diabetes.

A diabetic’s recommended diet is not all that different than one recommended for a non-diabetic. People living with diabetes can still have sugary foods, carbs, and starches; however, it is important to look at how much of these foods you should consume—as a diabetic or non-diabetic. People with diabetes are recommended to have no more than 10% of their daily caloric intake come from sugar, while a person without diabetes may have up to 25% .

Uncommon Myth #1: There are only two types of diabetes.

The most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. But did you know there is a third type called gestational diabetes ? This happens temporarily during pregnancy and increases both the mother’s and the child’s risk of developing diabetes (2% to 4% of pregnancies by non-aboriginal women experience gestational diabetes). There is prediabetes, which occurs when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. Diabetes UK even suggests that there are 12 forms of diabetes!  

Uncommon Myth #2: Diabetes is a physical condition only.

Diabetes and denial: there’s more to diabetes than just it just being a physical affliction. There is no denying the mental health issues that diabetes can cause.

Constantly dealing with diabetes management, stressing over blood glucose levels, and worrying about the many complications that diabetes brings (such as heart attacks, blindness, and kidney disease) can also have a significant impact on a person’s mental health.

People struggling with diabetes are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. 30% of Canadians living with diabetes were affected by depression, and 10% experienced major depression. Poor mental health can have a snowball effect on your physical health. Just imagine how much harder it can be to work at getting your health in order when you are feeling depressed on top of your physical symptoms.


Uncommon Myth #3: Diabetes is easily detectable.

There is no one sure way to know if you have diabetes. It can mask itself under a variety of common sickly symptoms like fatigue, unusual thirst, or weight change. Look for symptoms such as tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, blurred vision, or cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, as these may be more specific to diagnosing diabetes.

While there are symptoms , there are individuals who display no signs of type 2 diabetes , which makes annual health checks and blood-work a good habit.

Diabetes is a complicated disease that affects approximately 1 million Albertans which was 25.6% of Alberta’s population as of 2016. Even more, this amount is estimated to double by 2026. 


With the numbers of Canadians estimated to have diabetes only increasing in the coming years, taking preventative measures will put your health ahead of the game.   Diabetes Canada provides a   short questionnaire   you can complete to see if you are at risk of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

#ABfoodfight

By Alyssa Grams 09 Aug, 2017

University means a fresh start. You can put anything you want behind you, and instead look forward to who you want to become. Even if you aren’t moving away from home and you are entering your first year of university, many aspects of your life will still change.

It is important to remember that with the many changes university brings, your diabetes management may have to change too. A new living situation, new stressors, and new faces can cause your health to dip. But we have 3 tips to prepare you for living with diabetes in university.

By Alyssa Grams 09 Aug, 2017

Protein is a source of endless debate. Some bodybuilders say if you’re trying to bulk up, it should be the bulk of everything you eat. Others say the power of protein is overestimated. How did we get so mixed up about a few amino acids?

The fact is, it’s an essential nutrient that keeps your body functioning well by building and repairing muscle, hormones and enzymes, as well as your skin, nails and hair. But obviously there’s some confusion so I offer this to you: a protein primer.

By Alyssa Grams 01 Aug, 2017
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By Alyssa Grams 25 Jul, 2017

One of the first projects funded by the Alberta Diabetes Foundation when it was founded in 1988 was the clinical research of Dr. Ray Rajotte, which it funded for 12 years. Dr. Rajotte pioneered the first-ever islet cell transplant, which was the biggest breakthrough in diabetes research since the discovery of insulin. That work, plus an expanded islet cell transplant team and the addition of anti-rejection protocol, ended up becoming the international standard of care for islet cell transplantation.

Since 2000, when the protocol was developed, Alberta Diabetes Foundation has invested in a capital campaign to build the world-class building that now houses the Alberta Diabetes Institute. Since then, the Foundation has endeavoured to continue to invest in world-class research for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes right here in Alberta.

Alberta Diabetes Foundation works in tandem with the best-in-class Alberta Diabetes Institute to allocate funding where and when it is needed most, ensuring that important diabetes research and projects do not become stalled. The Alberta Diabetes Foundation is able to fund projects, even at early stages, often filling in gaps left by traditional granting organizations. The researchers in Alberta are confident that a world without diabetes is possible and, today they are doing more than providing sustainable solutions to treating diabetes -- our researchers are on their way to a cure.

By Alyssa Grams 19 Jul, 2017
Article compiled by Breanna Mroczek  with information from Dr. Mathew Estey, Clinical Chemist and Co-Director of Chemistry at DynaLIFE Medical Labs, and Dr. Christopher Naugler, Calgary Zone Clinical Department Head, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Medical Director
By Alyssa Grams 19 Jul, 2017
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By Alyssa Grams 17 Jul, 2017

Symptoms

Imagine this. Recently you’ve noticed that your child hasn’t been acting quite like their usual self lately. You can’t quite pinpoint it, so you chalk it up to a rough week. But maybe that rough week turns into two.  You start to think on their behaviour more and you grow more concerned; they are always asking for extra water or juice at breakfast, they seem to be constantly hungry, they’re rushing off to the bathroom more frequently, and they are tired as soon as they step in the door from school.

Although these symptoms may seem common for children who may not have had a good night’s rest or for those going through puberty, that’s not always the case. These symptoms should be taken seriously, and if you notice these in your child for a prolonged period of time, you should discuss a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test with your doctor. An A1C test will determine your child’s average blood glucose level over the past 3 months. If your child’s A1C level is 6.5 or over, if could mean that they have Type 1 diabetes.


Diagnosis

As a parent, your child’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis can be earth shattering for both you and your child. So many thoughts can go through a parent’s head; why does it have to be my child? How is my child going to live with this? How am I going to be able to give my child everything they need now that they have this condition?

Every parent and child will go through this journey in their own way, but it is important to know that Type 1 diabetes is a disease that can be managed, and proper management will allow your child to live a healthy life. As for the questions, you have as a parent, we would like to help by providing you with a few answers.


Why does my child have to be diagnosed with Type  1 diabetes? Where does Type 1 diabetes come from? What could wehave done as parents to prevent it?

Type 1 diabetes is not a preventable disease. It is a mixture of genes and environment. Although scientists do not know the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes , they do know that genes and environment play a role . They have figured out that individuals who have a certain type of HLA complex (human leukocyte antigen on chromosome 6) may be susceptible to Type 1 diabetes. This complex can create an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by a viral infection.

Simply put, when your body tries to fight the viral infection, it may also attack beta cells in your pancreas—cells that make insulin. This process usually takes several years before symptoms develop. The right combination of genes (HLA complex) and environment (exposure to a viral infection) can contribute to the onset of type 1 diabetes.


How is my child going to live with this condition?

Diabetes will be a day-to-day change in you and your child’s life. Your child will require insulin injections. You might even be required to administer insulin injections for your child depending on recommendations from the doctor. You will also want to revaluate the lifestyle that you and your child live. Focus primarily on the diet and exercise your child gets. And remember to stay on top of these few daily tasks you will need to complete:

  • Administering insulin
  • Monitoring blood glucose
  • Making sure that your child is eating a healthy, balanced diet with diabetic guidelines (incorporating things like carb counting can help to manage blood glucose levels)
  • Ensuring that your child is getting exercise on a daily basis (involving them in two sports can mean practice up to four days per week and games on weekends)

Although it may not happen everyday, your child will go through highs and lows with their diabetes. Both diabetic highs and lows are serious and can be life threatening

Symptoms of a diabetic high and low are:

  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision

Symptoms of a diabetic low also include:

  • Headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Paleness
  • Shaking

You and your child’s first encounter with can be frightening. If you prepare yourself to know that symptoms and you are able to react accordingly, you can make your child feel safer in the earlier stages of this condition.


How am I going to be able to provide everything my child with everything they need to take this condition on?

The biggest change a parent can have on their child’s life is setting a great example. Your child relies on you and looks up to you. As a parent you should eat healthy, exercise, and take on proper responsibility for your own health. Your own accountability will benefit your child in the short-term and long-term. Additional support from friends and family will also help your child manage emotional and physical effects of the diabetes diagnosis. You may also consider joining a diabetes support group or participating in a run to fund diabetes research.

Advice from the following people can help ease the stress of your child’s diabetes:

  • An endocrinologist
  • A pharmacist
  • A nurse
  • A certified diabetes educator
  •  A registered dietitian
  •  An eye doctor
  • A dentist
  • A community of those who have children with Type 1 diabetes

As a parent, the best thing you can do for your child is simply to be there for them. Communicate with your child in a way that is supportive and will help to boost their self-esteem. Allowing your child to be open and honest with you will make treating diabetes that much easier.

No parent wants to see their children suffer. Remember that diabetes was not something that your child was marked for, and it isn’t your fault as a parent. As a family, you can work through this disease together, and put your child down a path of success.

By Alyssa Grams 10 Jul, 2017

Article by Breanna Mroczek. Photography by Darren Greenwood Photography.

By Carmen Johnson 04 Jul, 2017

You’ve seen the ads: “Cut out bananas and banish belly fat forever.” It seems like the world is going bananas over a simple piece of fruit.

It’s a bit strange. They’re almost identical in carbs to a delicious pear, but nobody seems to be preaching safe pear practice. So why do bananas get a bad rap? Why do people suddenly find them so un a-peel-ing?

Don’t be Split on Bananas

Many have tried to bruise the banana’s reputation by spreading the rumour that they’re loaded with carbs and sugar, instantly leading to weight gain and sending your blood sugars into a spiral. This is nothing more than a far-fetched fruit fallacy.

For one, at just 105 calories, a medium banana puts a mere 5% dent in a 2,000-calorie diet ( 1 ). Yes, bananas do contain starch and sugar, which does cause blood sugars to rise, but that doesn’t mean you should steer clear! First off, our bodies need carbs to function. Second, there is a world of difference between the sugar  in fruit and that found in pop, cake or candy. Unlike sweets, bananas are rich in naturally-occurring sugar, plus 3.5 grams of fibre and a ton of nutrients needed for good health.

Bet on Bananas

Fibre—like that found in bananas—is essential for weight and blood sugar management. It helps prevent overeating by making you feel full for longer. It also helps to slow the absorption of sugar. Just-ripe bananas and other carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels ( 3 ).

Another boast for the banana is that it packs, on average, more than 400 milligrams of heart-healthy potassium . That’s almost 10% of your recommended daily intake! Potassium is vital for normal muscle, nerve and brain function and is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure .

Since many Canadians may not be getting enough potassium in their diet ( 2 ), bananas are a tasty way to up your daily dose

Go Bananas!

Still think bananas are to blame for all your weight woes? Here’s the truth: No one food is responsible for the number on the scale.

A diet high in fibre-rich fruits and vegetables —including bananas—is a key ingredient for a healthy body weight and reduced risk of chronic disease.

Bananas are a carbohydrate-rich food. If you're watching your blood sugars, be mindful of your portions. Otherwise, there's no monkey business when it comes to bananas. Unless you have been told to limit them by your doctor, there’s no reason to shun this simple fruit.

Some tasty tips to enjoy bananas:

  • Use mashed ripe bananas to boost the flavour and nutrition in your favourite muffin recipes.
  • Freeze overripe bananas for smoothies or baking.
  • Add chopped banana to your oatmeal while it’s cooking. This releases natural sugars so you can cut back on added sweeteners.
  • Roll up a banana with some protein-rich nut butter in a whole grain tortilla for an easy breakfast on the run.

For a healthy version of your favourite summer treat make sure to check out the Breakfast Banana Splits  recipe in the P ure Prairie Eating Plan   Cookbook.

 

References

1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Banana, raw . Accessed June 7, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=119

2) Health Canada, Food and Nutrition (2012). Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone? Accessed June 7, 2017 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/surveill/nutrition/commun/art-nutr-adult-eng.php

3) University of Sidney, Glycemic Index Database (2017). Banana, raw. Accessed June 7, 2017 from http://www.glycemicindex.com/index.php

 

By Alyssa Grams 04 Jul, 2017
Based on guidelines from Diabetes Canada. Illustration by Breanne Kelsey.
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