The World Health Organisation estimates that the number of people with diabetes is 422m, globally. And between 1980 and 2014 the number of people with the condition almost doubled. Despite the high prevalence of the disease, it is often misunderstood. Here are some common misconceptions about diabetes.
1. Diabetes is purely a disorder of the pancreas
Diabetes does affect the pancreas, but it shouldn’t just be thought of as an illness that affects the body from the neck down. If we take this viewpoint we miss the psychological impact of living with this condition. And it’s a big one. As well as the issue of adjusting to the diagnosis of a long-term health condition, people with diabetes are more likely to develop depression. There is even a specific form of depression associated with diabetes known as diabetes distress. It’s when a person is struggling to cope with managing their condition.
Having diabetes affects your mental abilities too. Research suggests that diabetes can affect your ability to think clearly, focus and recall memories.
Diabetes also affects other brain processes, such as how we weigh up food choices. Researchers are also investigating how hormones, such as insulin, seem to regulate food choices. These particular brain effects, within a system called the midbrain dopamine system, offer one potential explanation for why some diabetics find it difficult to follow health advice, no matter how often they are given it.
2. Only overweight or obese people get diabetes
There is a strong association between type 2 diabetes and obesity, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who is diabetic is overweight or obese. Nor does it mean that everyone who is overweight or obese will develop diabetes.
However, a Public Health England report said that obese adults in England were five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than adults of a normal weight. But there is still a lot of work to be done to fully understand the link between diabetes and obesity. This includes understanding the biological mechanisms that might link the two.