Fact: Diabetes is mainly due to insufficient insulin secretion or insulin resistance which impairs our body’s ability to absorb and utilise glucose, resulting in too high blood glucose level. In addition to sugar, our body will also obtain calories from protein and fat in our diet. Excessive intake of calories will lead to overweight and obesity, which in turn increase the risk of diabetes. Therefore, having a balanced diet and an optimal caloric control is of paramount importance. On the other hand, as a number of risk factors can increase our chance of developing diabetes, even if we are not overweight or obese, we should not overlook the possibility of getting diabetes!
Fact: A lot of patients with diabetes may not have obvious symptoms. Therefore, it is unreliable to determine whether a person has diabetes just by the presence of symptoms. It is recommended that persons with risk factors for diabetes should discuss with their family doctors for regular assessment.
Fact: Carbohydrates are the foundation of a healthy diet. Some carbohydrate-rich foods also contain vitamins, minerals and fibers which are essential to our health. Although carbohydrates do affect blood glucose level, there is no need to skip carbohydrates completely from diet if the daily consumption is appropriately adjusted.
Fact: Diabetes is a chronic disease which is difficult to be well-controlled by diet and exercise alone. The concomitant use of drugs is often required to achieve optimal effect. On the other hand, if you do not adhere to the treatment regime continuously as advised by your doctor, your risk of developing diabetic complications will be increased.
Fact: Insulin therapy is NOT a treatment specific to people with poor diabetic control. Some patients are prescribed with insulin therapy even shortly after diagnosis. Doctors would prescribe oral antidiabetic drugs or insulin according to the condition and need of the patient. In some cases both types of drugs are used to optimise the control of diabetes.
Fact: Fruit is a healthy food that contains nutrients and fibres. However, fruit also contains carbohydrates which contribute to our caloric intake and hence affects our blood glucose level. Therefore, we should pay attention to the amount of fruits or any other types of food that are taken.
Fact: There is NO standardised special diabetes meal. People with diabetes should also adopt a healthy meal plan according to the principles of “Healthy Eating Food Pyramid”, aiming for balanced diet, regular meal time, regular portion and optimal caloric control. However, as the nutritional needs and living habits of each diabetic patient are different, each individual should set their own meal plan according to their particular health and nutritional needs.
Fact: Urine strip test is not an accurate method to ascertain whether a person has diabetes or not. It is because there is usually no glucose in your urine unless the blood glucose level has risen to 10mmol/l or above. In fact, a fasting blood glucose of ≥7.0 mmol/L will be diagnosed as diabetes. Therefore, not all diabetic patients will have positive test strip result for urine sugar.
Fact: Regular physical activity is very important for diabetes management. It is recommended that diabetic patients should perform at least 150 minutes moderate-intensity or 75 minutes vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activities every week. In addition, patients are also advised to perform muscle strengthening activities at least twice weekly (on non-consecutive days). Diabetic patients may have certain risk factors, for instance, retinopathy, undiagnosed ischemic heart disease, etc., and in addition to these, certain drugs for diabetes may result in hypoglycaemia during exercise. In this regard, it is recommended that diabetic patients discuss with their doctor on the type, frequency and intensity of exercise before starting exercise.
Fact: Artificial sweeteners are usually much sweeter than sugar. Only a very little amount can achieve the same degree of sweetness as sugar, thus reducing caloric intake from sugar.
Fact: It is recommended that persons aged 45 years or above should screen for diabetes. If the results are normal, screening should be conducted again every 3 years. Persons of any age who have other risk factors for diabetes, such as overweight, obesity, family history of diabetes, etc. should have more frequent screening (e.g. yearly).
Fact: The glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of various carbohydrates according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after feeding. The GI value of individual food reflects the situation when a person eats that particular food only. Eating other food at the same time, different cooking methods or food handling procedures, variations in individual food’s chemical structure and place of origin, and/or the ripeness of fruit, can affect the usefulness of the GI. Therefore, GI is only one of the factors to be considered in meal planning. Diabetic patients should pay attention to the total amount of food taken in each meal and the combination of food items. They should consume more food with high fibre content, and control the amount of fat intake. The nutrients and portions required vary among individuals. To effectively control diabetes, please consult dietitians and healthcare professional.