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Diabetes

Other Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does eating a lot of sugar really cause diabetes?
  2. If I take my diabetes medication (insulin or pills), do I have to watch my diet?
  3. What diet should people with diabetes follow?
  4. How much sugar am I allowed to have per day?
  5. I've heard that diabetes skips a generation. Is that true?
  6. Are the pills I'm taking insulin?
  7. Is there a test that can be done to tell if I will get diabetes in the future?

Does eating a lot of sugar really cause diabetes?

No. People who eat foods high in sugar are at risk of gaining weight because sugar adds calories. Being overweight is associated with developing Type 2 diabetes, but eating sugar does not cause diabetes.

If I take my diabetes medication (insulin or pills), do I have to watch my diet?

Unfortunately, medication alone cannot adequately control blood glucose levels and keep you in the best of health. Eating appropriate foods at regular meal times is an important part of diabetes management and control.

What diet should people with diabetes follow?

There is no single diet that is appropriate for everyone with diabetes. There are several methods of meal planning a person with diabetes can follow, such as the exchange system, carbohydrate counting, calorie counting or the food guide pyramid. The meal planning method you choose should be one that fits your lifestyle and nutritional needs. A Registered Dietitian (RD) can help you select a meal planning method that is right for you.

How much sugar am I allowed to have per day?

Sugar is listed on food labels under the total carbohydrate listing because sugar is a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates include all sugars and starches in foods such as bread, cereal, pasta, fruit, and milk. Carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood glucose (sugar) levels because nearly all the carbohydrates you eat will be turned into glucose. For this reason, the total amount of carbohydrates you eat is more important than the type of carbohydrate. When following your meal plan, try to include carbohydrate sources that are good sources of other nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals instead of carbohydrates that have little nutritional value, such as candy and baked goods.

I've heard that diabetes skips a generation. Is that true?

No. Unfortunately, people who have a parent with diabetes are actually at higher risk for developing the disease than people with no family history of diabetes.

Are the pills I'm taking insulin?

No. Currently, insulin only comes in a liquid form. Experiments with pill forms have shown that our saliva and stomach acid damages the insulin and decreases its effectiveness. Diabetes pills help your body produce more insulin or use your own insulin more effectively, but they do not contain insulin.

Is there a test that can be done to tell if I will get diabetes in the future?

Type 2 diabetes likelihood can be predicted from common characteristics like age, body weight, physical activity, and family history of type 2 diabetes.

For family members of people with type 1 diabetes, there are tests used in research that can tell if the individual has an increased chance of developing the disease. For those at high risk, it is possible to join a research study concerning preventive treatment.

References

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Noninsulin-Dependent diabetes. National Institutes of Health. 1992.

American Diabetes Association. Therapy for Diabetes Mellitus and Related Disorders, 3rd Edition. 1998.

For more information:

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Last Reviewed: Sep 03, 1999

Robert M Cohen, MD Robert M Cohen, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati