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Diabetes: Separating the Myths from the Truths

"Knowing the Truth about Diabetes"
By: Ivan Olegario, MD, MDevComDiabetes: Separating the Myths from the Truths

Even as a kid, you have probably been admonished to “avoid eating so much sugar or you’ll get diabetes.” This is one of the many myths that surround this very common, but very misunderstood disease. Here are other myths about diabetes, and the truths that will set you free:

Myth: Eating sugar causes diabetes.

Truth: The common factor for type 1 and type 2 diabetes is genetics, not sugar.

In fact, sugar consumption has nothing to do with the development of type 1 diabetes, which can be present at birth. But do not take this as a license to consume sugar excessively. Although sugar consumption per se is not a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, obesity is.  And what happens when you eat a lot of sugary foods? You increase your chances for obesity.

In an indirect way, donuts and cake and soda and other sugary stuff can in fact increase your chances of having type 2 diabetes in the future; but then it will be the calories, not the sugar per se, that are to blame.

Myth: When you have diabetes, sugar cannot be given at any cost.

Truth: A patient with diabetes could suffer from low blood sugar, which could be dangerous. Sugar consumption is the quickest way to treat it.

Blood sugar levels are the main issue in diabetes. They can get too high. They can get too low as well. It is important to keep good watch on your sugar intake when you have diabetes. When your sugar levels are normal, don’t mess up the balance by consuming too much sugar. sBut when your blood sugar levels get too low, a spoonful of sugar can still be your friend.

Myth: Diabetes can be cured by herbal treatment.

Truth: To date, diabetes can only be managed, not cured.

Yes, there are indeed herbs and other natural foods that have been shown to have beneficial effects for certain groups of diabetics. These include aloe vera, banaba, and bitter melon (ampalaya).

It is important to note that preparation makes a difference in the efficacy of these herbal supplements. For instance, in a review of several clinical trials on bitter melon, Medagama and Bandara found that significant reductions in blood sugar levels were achieved with consumption of fresh bitter melon juice; but these results were not duplicated when dried fruit or commercial preparations were used.

Some herbal preparations may have unintended side effects. Olive leaves, for instance, lower both blood sugar and blood pressure. The result is sometimes a low-blood-pressure crisis.

Yes, even natural products can have harmful effects. Remember, poison ivy is a completely natural herb, but we all know what happens if you touch it.

If you wish to supplement diabetes treatment with herbal supplements, let your doctor know. Herbal supplements can be beneficial, but it is important that the people managing our health have a complete picture of our health care practices.

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