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November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

Alabama has the second worst rate of diabetes in the nation; someone is diagnosed with the chronic disease about every 15 seconds in our state. And rates are rapidly rising. In fact, current statistics suggest that among children born in the past 17 years, 1 in 3 will develop diabetes during their lifetime, and the projected rate for minorities is 1 in 2.

The Diabetes and Nutrition Education Clinic at The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital is here to help prevent complications from uncontrolled diabetes by providing information, support, and skills training to help people with diabetes self-manage their condition.

Common Myths
Education is a critical part of both diabetes prevention and treatment, as there are many misconceptions about the disease. Below, the American Diabetes Association dispels some common myths to help you and your loved ones stay knowledgeable about diabetes.

Myth: Diabetes is not that serious of a disease.

Fact: Diabetes causes more deaths each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Having diabetes nearly doubles your chance of having a heart attack. The good news is that proper diabetes control can reduce your risk for diabetes complications.

Myth: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

Fact: The answer is not so simple. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease. Type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. Being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association recommends avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages to help prevent diabetes. These include:

Regular sodas
Fruit punch
Fruit drinks
Energy drinks
Sports drinks
Sweet tea
Other sugary drinks

These drinks raise blood glucose and can add several hundred calories to your diet in just one serving!

Myth: If you are overweight or obese, you eventually will develop type 2 diabetes.

Fact: Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other factors such as family history, ethnicity, and age also play a role. Unfortunately, too many people disregard the other risk factors and mistakenly believe that weight is the only risk factor. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are within their normal weight or only moderately overweight.

Myth: You can catch diabetes from someone else.

Fact: Although we don't know exactly why some people develop diabetes, we know diabetes is not contagious. It can't be contracted like a cold or flu. There seems to be some genetic link in diabetes, particularly with type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle factors also play a part.

Myth: People with diabetes should eat special diabetic foods.

Fact: A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as healthy eating for anyone. It should be low in saturated and trans fats, moderate in salt and sugar, and based on lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and fruit. "Diabetic" foods generally offer no special benefit; most still raise blood glucose levels, cost more, and can have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.

Myth: People with diabetes can't eat sweets or chocolate.

Fact: If eaten as part of a healthy meal plan or combined with exercise, sweets and desserts can be eaten by people with diabetes. They are no more "off limits" to people with diabetes than they are to people without diabetes. The key to sweets is to eat a small portion and save them for special occasions, in order to focus on healthier foods.

Myth: If you have type 2 diabetes and your doctor says you need to start using insulin, it means you're failing to take care of your diabetes properly.

Fact: For most people, type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When first diagnosed, many people can keep their blood glucose at a healthy level with oral medications. But over time, the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin, and oral medications eventually may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels normal. Using insulin to get blood glucose levels to a healthy level is a good thing, not a bad one.

Diabetes Management
UAB Medicine’s Diabetes and Nutrition Education Clinic features four registered dietitians/certified diabetes educators (RD/CDE), with 100 years of combined experience in helping people with diabetes and weight loss. The clinic offers group classes for people with diabetes, and we strongly encourage a “support person” to attend classes with the patient, to provide positive support and encouragement. We also offer individual appointments for those who are unable to attend a class or would like more individualized instruction.

If you would like more information about diabetes or wish to enroll in the Diabetes and Nutrition Education Clinic, talk to your primary care physician today. A referral is required.