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Diabetes myths debunked

Type 1 diabetes is complex and affects people differently. Although recent advances in medical science have improved our understanding of the condition, there still remain a variety of misconceptions that you have probably heard. With plenty of rumours and flat-out wrong sources of information going around the internet, it’s no wonder you may be feeling confused.

Knowing the facts about type 1 diabetes is important for managing it well, particularly if you have recently been diagnosed. But with so much information out there, it can be difficult to sift through it all. So let us clear up some of the common myths and misconceptions, and separate the facts from fiction. Below, we explore five common type 1 diabetes myths and reveal the science behind the facts. So next time you hear something you know just is not right, you can come back with the facts!

Myth – “Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.”

People eating sweets

Since type 1 diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are too high, many people assume that eating too much sugar is the cause. However, diabetes is caused by your immune system impairing your pancreas’ ability to produce insulin so that your body is no longer able to effectively regulate blood sugar levels. While type 2 diabetes can be triggered by diet and lifestyle factors, the cause for type 1 is largely unknown (some doctors assume a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental conditions), but surely no amount of sugar has caused you to get it.1

Keep this in mind, though: high blood sugar levels over a period of time can lead to damaging effects on your nerves and kidneys, as well as increasing your risk of heart disease, so it is important to keep your levels under control.2 Having diabetes does not mean you need to cut sugar out entirely, but we all should limit our intake where possible. Healthy eating is important for everyone – no matter if you have type 1 diabetes or not. If you like, you can also visit our article about what you can eat if you have diabetes

Myth – “Diabetes is not a serious condition.”

There is no such thing as ‘mild’ type 1 diabetes – it is a chronic condition with the potential for serious short- as well as long-term health implications. If your blood sugar levels stay above a healthy range over an extended period of time, complications can arise, including kidney disease, stroke, eye problems and heart disease.3 It is therefore important to be clear on how best to manage your condition.

Making the right lifestyle changes and getting appropriate treatment can help you control your blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of complications. An insulin pump such as the mylife YpsoPump insulin pump can help with this.

Myth – “People with diabetes cannot play sport or exercise.”

People exercising

Exercise and sport are good for everyone. There are many famous athletes with type 1 diabetes who prove that, including AFL player Paddy McCartin, Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, and Australian cycling enthusiast and diabetes advocate Neil McLagan.

Exercise is particularly beneficial for people living with type 1 diabetes because it can support management and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. It helps for:

  • maintaining a healthy heart and weight
  • increasing sensitivity to insulin
  • reducing medication needs
  • lowering blood glucose levels.4

Nevertheless, there are a few factors to be mindful of before, during and after exercise. For example, before exercising, you should check your glucose to make sure it is in the appropriate range – if you have high or fluctuating blood glucose levels, exercise should be restricted until things have settled. Insulin pump systems like the mylife YpsoPump can help with exercise and metabolic control by continually delivering small amounts of rapid-acting insulin. Do you want to find out more about diabetes and sports? Read our article about type 1 diabetes and exercise

Myth – “Diabetes is contagious.”

Something of a classic playground myth, you may have heard it suggested that type 1 diabetes is transferred from person-to-person through blood, saliva, or sexual contact. Diabetes is actually categorised as a ‘non-communicable disease’, meaning it is not contagious – nor is diagnosis your fault. The bottom line: people cannot catch diabetes from each other.

We still do not know exactly why some people get diabetes and others do not, although we do know that it arises from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.5 There is no reliable way to predict who will get type 1 diabetes, but blood tests can detect the early signs.

Myth – “People living with type 1 diabetes cannot do certain jobs.”

Decades ago, there were heavy restrictions on certain careers and jobs that people with type 1 diabetes could have. However, times have changed, and advances in technologies and treatments mean that management is now much easier, so people living with diabetes can now work in a variety of professions.

People with diabetes are no longer discriminated against and can make their own career choices, just like everyone else. Many have successful working lives across a range of interesting jobs – you can teach, become a doctor, drive certain transport vehicles or even fly private aeroplanes. There are a few exceptions to this, however, because some jobs are considered ‘safety sensitive’ meaning if you have a hypo, you may put you and others around you at risk. The list is always changing but examples include working in the Australian armed forces, police force, working at heights or offshore, or driving a taxi. One thing to bear in mind though is that these restrictions may depend on how you manage your diabetes.

The bottom line

Diabetes information is widely available from the internet, but not all of it is true. A clear understanding of type 1 diabetes can help you manage your condition better. If you still have uncertainties around it, talk to a healthcare professional or diabetes educator. 

More information:



[1] Daneman D et al. Lancet. 2006;367(9513):847–858.

[2] Schlienger JL et al. Presse Med. 2013;42(5):839–848.

[3] Nathan DM et al. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(14):1307–1316.

[4] Colberd SR et al. Diabetes Care. 2016;39(11):2065–2079.

[5] Laron Z. A J Med Genet. 2004;27(5):1028–1032.

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