There are many myths about diabetes. These misconceptions are dangerous, because they can create confusion over how to prevent the disease. Let’s separate fact from fiction with seven common diabetes myths. 

Myth 1: Eating sugar causes diabetes.

This belief is widespread, since the condition is often referred to as “sugar diabetes.” But it’s not dietary sugar from candy and cake that’s necessarily the danger. Diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly produce insulin and manage glucose (“blood sugar”) levels. However, weight gain can contribute to diabetes, which is why a sensible diet is a preventive measure.

Myth 2: Type 2 diabetes only affects fat people.

That said, weight is not the only determining factor. Around 85% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. That means approximately 15% of people living with type 2 diabetes have an average weight or are even underweight.  

Myth 3: Exercise is dangerous for people with diabetes.

The opposite is true. Getting regular physical activity is essential to preventing diabetes or managing the disease if you have it. Several studies have revealed that regular physical activity lowers blood sugar levels and can enhance diabetes management.

This myth likely started since exercise can deplete blood sugar levels. However, this should not restrict physical activity. Balancing physical activities with medication and diet regulation will maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Myth 4: Diabetes is contagious.

Diabetes is a disorder. Unlike the common cold and other contagious illnesses, it is not spread through person-to-person contact. There is a genetic component to diabetes, making members of the same family more likely to have it. And the lifestyle factors that contribute to type 2 diabetes can mirror the behavior of family and friends. But this should not be confused with contagiousness.  

Myth 5: Diabetes is the same, whether it’s type 1 or type 2.

No. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disease that leads the body to stop making insulin. People with this form of diabetes require regular insulin boosts (typically through shots) to convert food into energy. Type 2 diabetes is the variety affected by behavioral risk factors. In these cases, the body produces insulin but the body doesn’t properly absorb it.

Myth 6: Only adults get type 2 diabetes.

The number of children and younger adults being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has risen in recent decades alongside childhood obesity. Adopting a healthier lifestyle of more physical activity and a balanced diet at an earlier age can help prevent a young person’s trajectory toward the disease.

Myth 7: Diabetes is not serious.

It can be extremely serious, especially if not respected as such. Diabetics can live full, long, and active lives—but only through using the right combination of medication and lifestyle modification. Just because diabetes is common, it’s no less serious as a chronic illness.