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Myths and misunderstandings

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Let's put the record straight.

People say lots of different things about Type 1 diabetes – but not all of it is true. 

Knowing the facts about diabetes is important when it comes to managing the condition. There is so much information out there, and it is often difficult to know what is right and what is not. It is important to realise that there is a lot of misinformation out there, so make sure you get your information from reliable sources – such as you diabetes healthcare team. 

This page aims to help dispel some of the most common myths about diabetes. See if you can guess which of the statements are true or false. 

Eating sugary food gives you diabetes.

FALSE: Diabetes isn't caused by eating sugary food (or junk food, either). We don't fully know what causes Type 1 diabetes and why some children and young people get it, and others don't. But we do know it's not something you can prevent – and it's definitely nothing to do with eating sweets or sugary food.

You get Type 1 diabetes because you are overweight or used to be overweight.

FALSE: Children and young people don't get Type 1 diabetes because they're overweight or used to be overweight. Type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with weight or lifestyle. Being overweight puts people more at risk of Type 2 diabetes, which is very rare in children and young people.

Type 1 diabetes is the same as Type 2 Diabetes. 

FALSE: They are two different conditions. People with Type 1 diabetes don't produce any insulin, so the only way to treat it is with insulin injections or a pump. It usually develops before you’re 40, and is the most common type of diabetes found in children and young people.

People with Type 2 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or their insulin isn’t working properly. It can be treated by a combination of eating a healthy balanced diet, keeping active and medication, which might include insulin. It usually occurs later in life and is much more common in adults.

You can’t eat sweets if you have Type 1 diabetes.

FALSE: Children and young people with diabetes should follow the same diet that’s recommended for all children and young people – one that is low in fat, salt and sugar, and includes five portions of fruit and veg a day. No food is out of bounds, including sweets and other sugary food. But too many sweets and chocolates aren’t good for anyone, so they should be a treat rather than a regular snack.

You will grow out of Type 1 diabetes.

FALSE: There is no cure for diabetes. Once a child is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, they have it for life. But it can be successfully managed by taking insulin, eating a healthy balanced diet and keeping fit and active.

You should eat special diabetic foods if you have Type 1 diabetes.

FALSE: Foods labelled ‘diabetic’ or ‘suitable for people with diabetes’ have no benefit for children and young people with diabetes. They’re often expensive, high in fat and calories, and can still cause blood glucose levels to rise. They can also cause side effects such as diarrhoea.

You can’t play sports if you have Type 1 diabetes.

FALSE:Young people with Type 1 diabetes can still play sports. It just means they might need to plan ahead by checking their blood glucose level, adjusting their insulin does, or having a snack before and/or afterwards. They might also need to test their blood glucose levels before, during and/or after playing. 

If you have any queries or concerns about Type 1 diabetes, call theDiabetes UK Carelineon 0345 123 2399, Monday–Friday, 9am-7pm, or emailhelpline@diabetes.org.uk.

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