As of 2014, 29.1 million people in the United States are living with diabetes. Though prevalent, the facts and treatment options for those living with diabetes, or those at risk, can be confusing. And, they are sometime misconstrued in the media or other seemingly reputable sources. To help clear things up, we’ve provided some of the key questions we hear about diabetes, along with the most up-to-date information related to each.
Q: What’s the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the beta cells of the pancreas, which produce insulin, are destroyed. Insulin is a necessary hormone that takes sugar from our blood and puts it into our cells to provide energy.
Type 2 diabetes results from a more gradual destruction of beta cells. When a person reaches the criteria for diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, about half of their beta cells have already lost their ability to produce insulin.
Q: What are the treatment options for diabetes?
The only treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin. As of now, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, but that may change in the future if researchers are able to restore beta cell function.
People with type 2 diabetes generally also take insulin medications. However, they may not require medications if they make healthy and carb-controlled food choices and increase their physical activity. Because a person with type 2 diabetes is working with half or less of their original capacity to control blood sugar, healthy lifestyle choices should always be the goal.
Q: Can diabetes be cured?
A: At this time, diabetes remains incurable. It can be managed, and side-effects can be minimized, but if you’ve heard that it can be cured, you have unfortunately been misinformed. If someone has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and they do not take medications, that does not mean they are cured.
Q: What supplements can I take to improve my diabetes management?
A: By far the most effective way to improve your diabetes management is to take all medications as prescribed, and create a meal and exercise plan with the assistance of your healthcare providers. Very few of the supplements on the market today have high-quality research to support their benefits, and many of them do not contain exactly what is listed on the label; there may be more or less of the active ingredient, and the supplement may be contaminated or mixed with other ingredients with unknown side effects. Always ask your healthcare providers before taking a supplement, we can help you determine whether it is safe and whether it will help.
Q: Do I need to avoid sweets and white foods in order to manage my diabetes?
A: It’s best to find alternatives that provide carbohydrates with important nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but white foods (potatoes, white bread, white rice, pancakes, etc.) and sweets can be incorporated into a healthy eating plan to manage diabetes. By eating these foods only occasionally, you will likely be healthier and feel better than if you were to eat large amounts of white foods without including other balancing foods. Moderation is key; Altru’s Registered Dietitians can help you find a balance.
Q: What resources can I trust for information about diabetes?
You will often hear about research studies from popular news outlets or on social media, and not from reputable scientific organizations like the American Diabetes Association. The reason large organizations do not make definitive claims on each newly published article is that the results from one study (and even several studies combined) are often not enough to confidently proclaim a new scientific breakthrough. Look to your local experts at Altru, or these reputable sources for information on diabetes and making healthy lifestyle choices:
- The American Diabetes Association website is an encyclopedia of information on healthy living and current research.
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has recipes, strategies to make healthy living easier, and topics specific to kids, families, men, women, and older adults.
- MyPlate (which replaced the food pyramid in 2011) is a great visual representation of healthy meal planning. This site has a food-tracking journal and can provide specific recommendations for food group servings to help you structure your daily meal plan.
- The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health offers research summaries on non-mainstream health practices.
- The dietary supplement fact sheets from the National Institutes of Health provide detailed information related to different supplements.
Diabetes can be overwhelming. It’s important to educate yourself on this disease so that you can prevent it if you are at risk, or manage it properly. If you have any questions about diabetes, ask one of the providers at Altru’s Diabetes Center. We want to help you manage or prevent diabetes in a safe and effective way!