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Diabetes in Australia: Myths and facts

Dani Li
February 09, 2022

Today, there are 1.8 million Aussies living with diabetes.  This includes the known diagnosis as well as the estimated half million people with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is increasing at an alarmingly fast rate. The combination of changes to diet and the food supply, combined with changes to physical activity with more sedentary work and less activity, means most populations are seeing Type 2 diabetes on the rise.
However, despite the pervasiveness of the disease, myths, some of which are potentially quite harmful, continue to surround it. We surveyed our network of pharmacists to help uncover the myths they hear the most about diabetes. 

What’s the treatment for diabetes?

If you suffer from diabetes, remember that you are not alone. Diabetes is manageable and support is available. Despite her 20 years of living with diabetes, Jo Paxinos, who developed diabetes at the age of 20, has managed to thrive with the condition. “It is 100 per cent manageable and you can enjoy a good quality of life,” says Paxinos. 

Following a healthy diet and eating plan as well as exercising a few times a week can help manage diabetes better. Staying on track with your medication will also help manage diabetes much better, as medications lower the risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney damage. 
And if you don’t feel like you’re being supported by your medical team, then go and find the right support,” voices Paxinos. “You need to feel comfortable with the people you’re working with and that they’re helping you to be as healthy as you can be.“

Diabetes: Myths and facts 

Myth 1: “Diabetes is not a serious condition.” 

For UFS pharmacist Amy Waldron, one of the biggest myths she has heard is that diabetes is not a serious condition. 

Diabetes is a serious and progressive condition that has both short term and long term complications and can implicate other areas of the body, such as the eyes, heart and feet,” Waldron explained. “Keeping blood glucose levels in an optimal range will help to reduce the risk of complications.” 

The condition could even lead to a heart attack, stroke and problem with the kidneys and nerves. In addition, diabetes is a progressive disease, which means that the longer you have diabetes, the more serious the condition can become.  

What this means is that, without proper management, you require more help from medications to keep you and your heart, eyes, and kidneys healthy. 

Myth 2: “Type 1 diabetics only need insulin.” 

Since Type 1 diabetes arises from the pancreas producing little or no insulin, this idea fuels the myth that “Type 1 diabetics only need insulin,” as George Saad, pharmacist of Pharmacy 4 Less Parramatta Road, often hears. 

While it is true that people with Type 1 diabetes need to perform the responsibilities of the pancreas to replace insulin with insulin injections or a pump, just doing these things alone is not enough to treat Type 1 diabetes. As a life-threatening condition, Type 1 diabetes needs to be closely managed with daily care. Diabetes Australia says in addition to insulin replacement through insulin pumps or lifelong insulin injections up to six times every day, it is also important to monitor blood glucose levels regularly. It is best to follow a doctor’s advice, but this can be up to six times a day as well. 

Keeping your blood glucose levels on target will help prevent both short-term and long-term complications. 

Myth 3: “If I don't eat sweets, I don't [need to] take my diabetes medications.” 

Saad repeatedly hears patients undermine the severity of diabetes. They tell him that “if I don't eat sweets, I don't [need to] take my diabetes medications.” 

“Keeping blood glucose levels in an optimal range will help to reduce the risk of complications,” confirmed Waldron, but the claim of no sweets to abandon medication is simply not true. Regardless of your diet, if you suffer from Type 1 diabetes, it is incredibly important to stay on top of your medication, particularly if you have Type 1 diabetes and need to take insulin every day.  

The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists reports that taking diabetic medications abate diabetes symptoms by managing blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in your body. 

Myth 4: “If I eat better food, I don't have to take medication for my diabetes.” 

Some patients expand on the previous myth to say “if I eat better food, I don't have to take medication for my diabetes.” says pharmacist Carli Berrill of Thursday Island Pharmacy. 

It is true that eating well, including limiting your sweets intake, will help counter some effects of diabetes, but diet alone is not enough to treat the condition. For those with Type 1 diabetes, it is extremely important to take insulin along with medication every day. This also applies to those with Type 2 diabetes. Medication is just as important. On top of that, you may also have to take insulin, depending on what the doctor prescribes. 

Myth 5: “Only overweight or obese people can get Type 2 diabetes.” 

Another popular misconception that pharmacist David Paulmert from Thursday Island Pharmacy constantly hears is that “only overweight people can get Type 2 diabetes,” or that “you have to be overweight or obese to develop diabetes.” 

These myths circulate based on misconceptions about the causes and factors of diabetes. While it is true that being overweight or obese can be a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, but it is not a direct cause.  

In reality, Type 2 diabetes is more correlated with our lifestyle choices than with our weight. Diabetes Australia asserts that people who maintain a healthy weight can also develop Type 2 diabetes if their lifestyle choices are detrimental to their health. 

Our sedentary lifestyles and processed foods are definitely playing a role. We have to teach our kids early about the right foods to eat and the importance of movement and exercise,” stated Adelle Rutch a nutritionist from Flannerys Organic and Wholefood Market. 

Myth 6: “No one in my family has diabetes so I don’t have to worry.” 

Similarly, Berrill also hears prevalent myths regarding incorrect causes of diabetes. She says that one of the myths she hears is that “no one in my family has diabetes so I don’t have to worry.” 

This is further iterated by Diabetes Australia, which writes, Family history is only one of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. 

Genes do have a role to play with Type 2, but, nevertheless what we eat and how much we move can help reduce our risk of developing Type 2,” said Adelle Rutch 

What are some Diabetes Australia apps? 

Fortunately, if you struggle with diabetes, technology can help you immensely.  

Glucose Buddy 

One app you can use to record and track their blood glucose levels, activity and nutrition is Glucose Buddy. You can manually enter your blood glucose readings together with notes about food intake. If compatible, you can even pair it with your blood glucose meter.  

OnTrack Diabetes 

OnTrack Diabetes is another app you can look into that supports you with managing Type 2 Diabetes and emotions. With information about Type 2 diabetes, steps to better manage your condition, guidance in building your support network, and tips on simple lifestyle changes, the app can be extremely helpful in getting your life back on track. 


Roche Diabetes Care is offering free access to the mySugr Pro app in Australia during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The mySugr app stores all your important diabetes data from connected devices, integrations, and manual entries, in one convenient place.


MedAdvisor is helpful for people with diabetes.  MedAdvisor can help you track and manage your diabetes medication. This is particularly important for Type 1 diabetic patients because you need to take insulin every day. 

The medication tracking and management app can also help you monitor other essential items, like diabetes test strips, lancets, pen needles/syringes, pump consumables, etc. The great part is that the app can notify you when you are running low on supplies. 

“Nowadays [with MedAdvisor], I can tap to refill the script during my own time on a Sunday night and then it’s ready for me to collect on a Monday morning,” says Paxinos. “There is no confusion and it’s a lot easier.” 

Download MedAdvisor for free now on the app store or on Google Play.

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