23 million people in the US have been diagnosed with diabetes. That’s 9.4% of the population. It’s estimated that an additional 7.2 million people have gone undiagnosed.

These stats confirm that diabetes is a widespread problem. It’s also widely misunderstood. Therefore, it’s important that you know the truth so that you can then share it with others. What are some common beliefs that have been proved false by research?

Type 1 Myths and Truths

Misconception #1: Eating too much sugar can cause type 1 diabetes.

Truth #1: This type is actually an autoimmune disease. As such, it’s not caused by consuming too much sugar nor can it be prevented with lifestyle changes such as eating less of it. So what is type 1 diabetes?

When, for some reason, the immune system mistakes the cells that produce insulin as dangerous, it destroys them. The result is that cells can’t function properly and the composition of the blood becomes unbalanced.

Misconception #2: Diabetics can’t have any sugar.

Truth #2: Just as with everyone else, moderation is a good idea. Too much sugar is never good, but diabetics can still eat it as long as they take in enough insulin to balance out carbs. In fact, eating sugar is encouraged by doctors when patients experience a drop in blood sugar.

Misconception #3: Excess weight is to blame.

Truth #3: While obesity and inactivity are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, they are not contributors to the development of type 1.

Speaking of type 2…

Type 2 Myths and Truths

Misconception #1: Too much sugar is a direct cause.

Truth #1: Eating sweets in itself is not a cause of type 2 diabetes. Yet, as mentioned earlier, being overweight or obese does increase a person’s risk. Therefore, consuming too much sugar or too many calories, in general, can lead to higher risk.

Misconception #2: The only people at risk are those that are overweight.

Truth #2: While being overweight is a major risk factor, it is not the only risk factor. While researchers have not been able to fully understand the causes, they have found that ethnicity also plays a role. Hispanics, African Americans, American Indians and those of Asian descent are more likely to develop this type. So are those who have a family history of the condition.

Misconception #3: You’ll inevitably end up needing insulin shots

Truth #3: Only about 25% of people with type 2 diabetes need insulin shots. More common forms of management for this type include cutting down on stress, exercising regularly, making diet adjustments and taking oral medication.

Misconception #4: Once diagnosed, you’ll have to live with diabetes for the rest of your life.

Truth #4: Because so many develop this condition due to excess weight, losing that weight can reverse type 2 diabetes. Hence, doctors encourage establishing a regular exercise routine and eating a healthier diet. One study showed that losing just 15 pounds can reduce a person’s risk by 58% over three years. What an impact these lifestyle changes can have!

Misconception #5: Needing insulin means that a person is not properly managing their blood sugar.

Truth #5: Needing insulin is not necessarily a sign that a person is failing to control his or her condition. It often simply means that the body is fatigued and needs help to function as it should and keep everything in balance.

Now That You Know the Truth…

Of course, there are several other common perceptions about diabetes, which are incorrect. Yet, those above are among the most common. Now that you know the false notions you’re up against, you can do your part to help raise awareness of the truth.

Doing so will create stronger networks of support for those affected and will also enable the continued research that is so necessary to understand this illness. Your support will especially be appreciated during November, which the American Diabetes Association has declared American Diabetes Month. How do you plan to raise awareness during November?