Insulin Myths

Author: Veronica Monti, MS, RDN, CDE
Insulin Myths

Insulin Myths

by Veronica Monti, MS, RDN, CDE

Has your doctor recently mentioned that you might benefit from taking insulin? Are you worried about taking insulin because you heard negative things about it? Even though Insulin is an effective and safe treatment for diabetes, many people feel anxious about taking it to lower their blood sugars.

Below are some common questions people ask about insulin with answers provided by our Braden Diabetes Center specialist Veronica Monti, MS, RDN, CDE.


  1. Will I gain weight while taking insulin?
    It all depends on the type and amount of food you eat.

    Insulin is a hormone that allows your body to store glucose (sugar) inside your cells. When you eat a meal, the carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and fruit are broken down into glucose. For the glucose to enter your cells, you need insulin. Insulin works like a key, which unlocks your cells to let the glucose in. Once inside, the glucose is used by your cells to give you energy. If you eat a large meal with lots of carbohydrates, your body will need more insulin to store all the glucose from the food inside your cells, which may result in weight gain. However if you eat a small meal with a limited amount of carbohydrate, your body will need less insulin to store the glucose from the food without causing weight gain.
  2. I have heard that taking insulin can cause complications like blindness and amputations. Is it true?
    No. It is not true. Insulin is a hormone that facilitates storage of glucose (sugar) inside the cells for energy.

    When a person has diabetes, the body cannot make insulin and/or the insulin that the body makes does not work properly. As a result, the glucose stays in the blood stream and over time causes damage to the blood vessels and nerves. We have blood vessels and nerves all over our body. Damage to the large blood vessels of the heart and brain can result in heart attack and stroke. Damage to the small blood vessels of the eyes and kidneys can result in eye and kidney disease. Damage to the nerves that go to the feet as well as poor circulation can result in foot problems and amputations.

    Having diabetes, does not mean a person will end up with diabetes complications. However having too much glucose in the blood over time can lead to diabetes complications. Taking insulin can reduce the amount of glucose in the blood and prevent diabetes complications.
  3. Will I become addicted to insulin if I start taking it?
    No. Insulin is not addictive. Insulin is necessary for life functions.

    You have probably heard the expression “one size fits all”. Well, when it comes to insulin, it is the opposite. The amount of insulin a person needs depends on many factors including body weight, age, food intake, duration of diabetes, and type of diabetes he or she has. Excess weight (especially around the waist) can result in insulin resistance, which is when insulin does not work properly. A person with insulin resistance may need more insulin to get blood sugars to target.

    Hormones produced during puberty and pregnancy make the person more insulin resistant, which can affect the amount of insulin the person needs.

    Diabetes can be progressive disease, meaning that over time, the pancreas will make less and less insulin. Therefore, a person that has had diabetes for many years may require more insulin than a newly diagnosed person whose pancreas is still producing insulin. Type 2 diabetes can be reversed if diagnosed and treated early.
  4. Does taking insulin mean I have the worst kind of diabetes?
    No. Taking insulin simply indicates your body needs it to get blood sugars to target.

    Both patients with type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can take insulin.

    Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks and destroys the cells of the pancreas that make insulin, and people with Type 1 diabetes must replace the insulin they are no longer capable of making. Insulin is the hormone that facilitates glucose (sugar) storage inside our cells for energy. Without insulin, we cannot survive. If our body cannot produce it, we must replace it.

    Type 2 diabetes is a condition caused by a number of factors including genetics, age, ethnicity, diet, body weight and lack of physical activity. A person with type 2 diabetes may need insulin to get blood sugars to target in addition to other non-insulin medications and lifestyle changes.
  5. Does taking insulin mean I will have to keep taking it for the rest of my life?
    Not necessarily. Some people with type 2 diabetes are able to lower and sometimes even stop taking insulin by managing their diet, physical activity and stress level. We know that weight loss and regular physical activity make insulin work better in the body. Sometimes the addition of Metformin, and other medications, can make the insulin the person takes work better in the body, resulting in better blood sugars and reduction in the insulin dose.
  6. Why should I put something unnatural like insulin in my body?
    The insulin used to treat diabetes is safe to take and “natural”. While it is true that insulin is made in a laboratory, its molecular structure is identical to your own body’s insulin.

    Until 1982, all insulins used to treat diabetes came from animal sources such as cows or pigs. Unfortunately, in humans these animal-based insulins often resulted in allergic and immunologic reactions. Synthetic insulins were developed using modern methods that resulted in the creation of insulins that mimic the human hormone.

    Insulin can even be a more effective way to get blood sugars to target with fewer side effects than other oral and injectable medications. Insulin is the recommended medication of choice in children and pregnant women because it is so safe to take as long as it is prescribed with care and close monitoring for safety.
  1. Cultural Differences and Considerations When Initiating Insulin
  2. Factors influencing insulin acceptance among type 2 diabetes mellitus patients in a primary care clinic: a qualitative exploration
  3. Patients & Beliefs About Insulin Causing Blindness, Amputation, and Other Morbidities: Data from a Large Insulin Initiation Trial
  4. Psychological insulin resistance: patient beliefs and implications for diabetes management
  5. Factors Associated With Psychological Insulin Resistance in Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes