World Diabetes Day: Do we even understand the disease which over 60 million Indians suffer from?

Updated: 17 November, 2020 15:56 IST | Maitrai Agarwal |

Dr. Shehla Shaikh, Consultant Diabetologist and Endocrinologist, debunks common misconceptions related to diabetes

Representative Image.
Representative Image.

World Diabetes Day is observed on November 14 every year to spread awareness about diabetes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the disease was directly responsible for an estimated 1.6 million deaths in 2016 even though the non-communicable disease is largely preventable. Physical activity, medication, regulated diet, avoiding tobacco use, and regular screening for complications can delay or prevent Type 2 diabetes.

With more than 60 million people suffering from Type 2 diabetes in India, it can be said that India is the diabetes capital of the world. While that means it’s severely common in Indians, there are certain myths associated with the ailment that are misleading and can hamper treatment. With Covid 19 impacting millions around the world and given its vulnerability to co-morbid patients including diabetics, it is important to bust these myths and adopt an informed approach to tackle diabetes.

Talking about the importance of awareness, Mumbai-based Consultant Diabetologist and Endocrinologist, Dr. Shehla Shaikh said, “It is important to keep oneself updated and verify information at all times. Being aware goes a long way in accessing solutions, which otherwise may be missed by a confused mind.” Below, Dr. Shaikh busts common myths related to diabetes.

Eating more sugar leads to diabetes

No one food or nutrient causes diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune condition, whereas genetic factors and poor lifestyle cause Type-2 diabetes. In Type-2, glucose from the food does not get absorbed by the cells in the right way and hence sugar percentage in the blood tends to increase. Hence, once diagnosed, Type-2 diabetics are advised to cut down on sugar.


You cannot get diabetes at a young age

You can get diabetes at any age. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is an auto-immune condition. It is diagnosed in children, teenagers, and adults as well.

Diabetes tablets cause organ damage

The most commonly prescribed diabetes medication is Metformin. It is a common misconception that these tablets can cause damage to kidneys, liver, or heart. However, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. These medications have been made available to patients for more than three decades and their effect on the body has been widely studied. Hence, you can totally rely on the medication that your doctor prescribes.

Carbohydrates are not good for diabetics

Carbohydrates are the most important nutrients that provide fuel to the body. There are 3 main sources of carbohydrates – starch, non-starch, and added sugar. People with Type-2 diabetes are usually advised to consume whole, unprocessed, and non-starchy vegetables, rich in fibre like lettuce, broccoli, etc. However, they should restrain from consuming refined and processed foods with added sugar.


Insulin is the end of the road

People with Type 2 diabetes usually produce enough insulin when they are diagnosed, however, it is not working as expected, i.e., not helping cells absorb glucose from food. This eventually leads to high sugar levels. Over time, insulin production in the pancreas decreases, and patients may need insulin injections. Thus, insulin comes as a saviour.

My sugar is now controlled even though my symptoms are persistent

It is important to keep a check on sugar levels from the time of diagnosis to avoid any internal damage. If ignored and once complications develop, it is difficult to reverse the damage. Hence symptoms continue to persist even when the sugar level is well under control.

I cannot enjoy life at all because of restrictions

Diabetes is a lifestyle disease; hence making necessary changes to the lifestyle can help keep the sugar levels in check. It is important to be in touch with your doctor and monitor blood sugar levels on a regular basis. One can enjoy life the same way as they were before they got diagnosed with diabetes, albeit with a better lifestyle.

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First Published: 13 November, 2020 17:23 IST

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