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You Can Beat Diabetes

From diets to meds – we bust five big myths (and help you lower your risk)

En español | FICTION: If you're at high risk for diabetes, you're going to get the disease.

FACT:
 The Diabetes Prevention Program — which followed more than 3,000 overweight, prediabetic men and women at 27 research centers — found that people who lost even a little weight and exercised consistently (a goal of 30 minutes five days a week) reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. (People 60 and up cut their risk by a whopping 71 percent.) "If you're overweight, try to reduce your daily intake by 500 calories," says Christine Tobin of the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

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FICTION: Diabetics need a special diet.

FACT: Not long ago diabetics were urged to forgo sweets and drastically limit their intake of carbohydrates. But a slew of new research suggests that diabetics are best served by following the same healthy guidelines everyone else does: plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and dairy products, and sparing amounts of heart-healthy fats.

FICTION: There's a cure for diabetes.

FACT: Halle Berry's claims to the contrary — in 2007 she announced she had been cured of her type 1 diabetes — there is no cure for either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, says Sue Kirkman, M.D., senior vice president at the ADA. According to a study published last year in the Annals of Internal Medicine, however, 56 percent of type 2 diabetics who followed a Mediterranean-style diet could control their blood sugar without medication.

A woman with a red balloon and a man's arm holding a dart poised to burst the balloon.

Being obese and having a genetic predisposition for diabetes can trigger the disease. — Ocean/Corbis

FICTION: Being overweight causes diabetes.

FACT: Just because you're heavy doesn't mean you'll automatically get diabetes. In fact, 34 percent of adults 20 and older are obese, but just 10.7 percent have diabetes. Still, experts agree that being obese, especially combined with a genetic predisposition for diabetes, can trigger the disease. Research in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that those who were obese at age 50 and gained 20 pounds were five times likelier to develop diabetes than those who weren't obese at 50. 
 
FICTION: An insulin pill is right around the corner.

FACT: An insulin pill is not imminent, says the ADA's Tobin. There are alternatives to injections, though. One of the latest is the Finesse insulin patch-pen, expected to be available in late 2011. The patch-pen is disposable — and cheaper than an insulin pump.

You may also like: A new prescription for diabetes. >>

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