Skip to main content
Debunking Old Wives' Tales: 10 Myths About Diabetes

You are listening to Healthy Kids Zone:

Debunking Old Wives' Tales: 10 Myths About Diabetes

Jan 22, 2024

You have probably heard the old wives’ tale, “Do not let your child eat sugar, or they will get diabetes.” Is this true? Is it true that there is a cure for diabetes? Access to the Internet has created an explosion in information available to people, but it can be hard to tell what is true, and what is not. Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, debunks common myths and shares what parents should know regarding their child's diabetes.

    This content was originally produced for audio. Certain elements such as tone, sound effects, and music, may not fully capture the intended experience in textual representation. Therefore, the following transcription has been modified for clarity. We recognize not everyone can access the audio podcast. However, for those who can, we encourage subscribing and listening to the original content for a more engaging and immersive experience.

    All thoughts and opinions expressed by hosts and guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views held by the institutions with which they are affiliated.


    There are a lot of old wives' tales, or myths and facts, about diabetes out there. Especially when it comes to diabetes and kids. We'll sort out the facts from fiction about diabetes on today's Scope.

    Although Dr. Google is full of information on diabetes, not all of it is really true. Yes, even well-meaning family members and friends can give bad information. So let's talk about the myths.

    Fact: Eating Sugar Does Not Cause Type 1 Diabetes

    "Eating too much sugar causes diabetes." Yes, and no. Type 1 diabetes? Nope, not due to eating too much sugar. That's caused by your child's body attacking the pancreas so it stops making insulin. It has nothing to do with how much sugar your child eats. Type 2, on the other hand, isn't directly caused by eating too many sweets, but an unhealthy diet full of sugar leads to childhood obesity, and obesity can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.

    Fact: Kids with Diabetes Can Eat Sugar—In Certain Amounts

    "Kids with diabetes can never eat sweets." If you were a kid and your friend had sweets, wouldn't you be jealous and want some, too? Well, luckily, this myth isn't true. Kids with diabetes can eat a certain amount of sugar, they just have to watch how much and make sure they balance the treats with healthy options, just like we all should.

    Fact: Diabetes Cannot Be Outgrown

    "Kids can outgrow diabetes." Sadly, no, kids do not outgrow type 1 diabetes. Once the pancreas stops making insulin, that's it. No more. Kids with the tendency for type 2 diabetes will always have that tendency, especially if they don't stay active or they become overweight.

    Fact: Diabetes is Not Contagious

    "Diabetes is contagious." Nope. It runs in families, but you can't spread diabetes like you can spread a cold virus.

    Fact: Insulin Does Not Cure Diabetes

    "Insulin cures diabetes." We wish. Right now, there is no cure, but insulin is the only treatment available for type 1 diabetes. And if type 2 diabetes stays out of control even when on oral medications and trying to control your diet, insulin is needed then as well.

    Fact: Insulin or Diabetes Medication Still Needs to be Given When Your Child is Sick

    "Kids with diabetes don't have to take their insulin or pills when they're sick." Absolutely false. When kids are sick, especially if they're throwing up or not eating much, giving insulin might not seem like the right thing to do. There's nothing in their stomach so you worry about making their sugar levels go too low if you do that. However, it is very important to keep taking insulin during illness. Insulin doses may need to be adjusted during illness, but they can't be skipped altogether. Kids need energy when they're sick to help the body heal themselves. Insulin helps them use that energy properly.

    Fact: Exercise is Important for Kids with Diabetes

    "Kids with diabetes can't exercise." Wrong again. Exercise is important for all kids, with or without diabetes. Exercise offers many benefits to kids with diabetes. It helps them manage their weight, helps their hearts stay strong, boosts their mood, relieves stress, and helps with blood sugar control.

    Fact: Kids with Diabetes Should Not Avoid Carbs

    "Low-carbohydrate diets are good for kids with diabetes because they should avoid all carbs." No. Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy and carbohydrate-containing foods should provide about 50-60% of a person's calories each day. Low-carb diets tend to be overloaded with protein and fat. Kids with diabetes should have a healthy, balanced diet.

    Fact: There is No Cure for Diabetes

    "There are cures for diabetes, but the doctors and the governments aren't telling anybody." Yeah, despite what you may hear or see on the Internet, there really, truly is no cure for diabetes. Many scientists are working on one, but the only way to manage diabetes now is to take insulin and medications as prescribed, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of physical activity, and check blood sugar levels regularly.

    Fact: Smelly Feet is Not a Sign of Diabetes

    "Stinky feet are a sign of diabetes." No, stinky feet are a sign that your child needs to wash their feet. There's no evidence that foot odor has anything to do with diabetes. But foot problems, like diabetic neuropathy, where they can't feel their feet, is a complication of out-of-control diabetes as they get older.

    So if you really want the facts on diabetes, be sure to talk to your child's diabetes specialists. They really are the ones who know best.


    updated: January 22, 2023
    originally published: July 11, 2016