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Sweet nothings: Discard myths to successfully manage diabetes (Nov 14 is World Diabetes Day)
New Delhi, Nov 13 - Does consuming too much sugar cause diabetes? Is diabetes a disease of the elderly? India's diabetes population is dangerously on the rise and set to cross 100 million by 2030 and yet misconceptions and myths about this lifestyle disease that is linked to various other health complications are in abundance.
Prevention, as doctors say, can be practised with knowledge and therefore awareness is an important tool to fight this health monster.
One of the most popular myths associated with diabetes, according to S.V. Madhu, secretary, Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI), is that it is caused by consuming too much sugar.
"Eating sugar does not cause diabetes per se, although it is recommended to limit your sugar intake," Madhu told IANS. "Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the glucose level in the blood rises beyond the normal limit which damages tissues in the body and can lead to a host of complications like cardiac problems, kidney problems and even blindness".
Another common myth is that once you start taking insulin you become dependent on it for life.
"People often think that insulin is like a drug that you get addicted to, but the truth is that diabetics are not so much bothered about insulin itself as the process of daily injecting themselves with it," Pradeep Chowbey, vice chairman, Max Healthcare, told IANS.
"Insulin, in fact, reduces the complications that come with diabetes and helps you lead a better life," he added.
S.K. Nagrani, senior consultant, Diabetology at Max Hospital, concurred. "People think that insulin may drastically reduce their blood sugar level and harm them, but the truth is insulin is the best way to control diabetes," he said.
Most people also still have a notion that diabetes is the disease of the elderly, and that people whose parents are diabetics will, in turn, suffer from the disease too - both of which are not true.
"That diabetes is the disease of the old is the most common myth in the Indian scenario," Madhu said. "Although the chances of type 2 diabetes increases with age, diabetes is being detected in youngsters, children, even newborns. When it comes to children and youngsters, lifestyle plays a big role in preventing this disease".
Less outdoor activity and junk food are the two main culprits of childhood obesity in kids these days - a point of concern by itself - which in turn makes children vulnerable to diabetes at an early age.
"Our lives are becoming busier than ever, and that has started reflecting in our food habits and lifestyle. When it comes to children, in the rush of daily life and the need for something attractive enough to eat, parents pack ready-to-eat food stuff like burgers or crisps and fried snacks in their lunch box which is hardly healthy," said nutritionist Esha Verma.
"In this context, it's a good idea to take reference from our traditional Indian food that offers a perfect balance of nutrients in the simple roti-subji, and improvise it. School and college canteens too should encourage healthy eating options," she added.
Like in children, obesity in adults too can lead to health complications like diabetes. According to Chowbey, almost 50 percent diabetics are obese.
"Diabetes is a chronic disease which cannot be cured but can be controlled, and a diabetic can live a healthy life with proper medication and regular check-ups. A healthy diet is one in which 40-60 percent calories come from carbohydrates, 20 percent from proteins, and 30 percent or less from fats. Anyone who says that 'special diabetic food' is good enough is wrong," Madhu said.
(Azera Rahman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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