Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) has become increasingly common in society over the past several decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 34.2 million Americans, (about 1 in 10) have the disease. T2D is a chronic condition in which a patient’s ability to metabolize blood sugar is impaired. If left untreated long-term complications of T2D can include heart attacks, strokes, limb amputation, blindness, kidney failure, and permanent nerve damage. Two of the biggest misconceptions about T2D, are that 1. It is a disease caused by eating too much sugar, and 2. Once you have T2D, you can never eat carbohydrates again.
First, eating too much sugar can contribute to T2D but is not the cause. There are many factors that contribute to the development of T2D. An unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, genetics, and being overweight/obese are among the most prominent risk factors. It is true that if we eat too much sugar, we potentially run the risk of eating too many calories overall. Eating too many calories leads to weight gain, which in turn increases your risk of developing T2D. Over years of eating too many calories and gaining weight, your risk for developing T2D increases. It is possible to develop T2D even if you follow a low carbohydrate diet if you chronically overeat.
The second misconception about T2D that people often have is that once you have T2D you can never eat carbohydrates again. We often recommend that patients with T2D reduce and monitor their intake of carbohydrates, but we very rarely (if ever) recommend that someone avoids carbohydrates completely. The most important thing to keep in mind about carbohydrate intake is portion control. If you like cake you don’t have to avoid it entirely, you just have to learn what a reasonable serving of cake is and not overeat it. Many of our patients are happy to learn that they can manage their blood sugar and still enjoy desserts a few days per week. They just have to account for the carbohydrates that they are eating and work it into their daily meal plan.
The best way to prevent getting T2D is to eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and get at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity every day. If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, or have been told your blood sugar is abnormally high, speaking with a registered dietitian is one of the most essential ways to learn how to manage the disease and reduce your risk for developing further complications!
Ethan Braun, RD