World Diabetes Day - Myths about Diabetes and Diet

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Nov 13, 09:06 AM in and . Comments [3].

November 14th is World Diabetes Day, and I thought it would be a good idea to blow some of the most popular myths about Type 2 Diabetes and Diet.

Diet is one of the most important features of the management of Diabetes and it has been shown that adhering to dietary recommendations can make an impact on glycaemic, or blood sugar, control. (DCCT, 1993). Diabetes is one of the areas in which Dietitians have some concrete proof that what we advise people to do can make a difference to their health and well being. It’s a great area to work in and is really rewarding for those of us who want to make a difference.

Alongside blood glucose control, the most important parts of dietary management for Type 2 Diabetes are weight loss (if needed) and reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Well over 85% of people with Diabetes develop cardiovascular complications so it’s important to focus on the whole diet for reducing risks.

The dietary guidelines for Diabetes have changed many times over the past 30 years. This has led to old information still hanging about and, as a result, lots of myths about the dietary management of Diabetes can be found.

The most common myths for diet and diabetes include:

  • It’s a “sugar free” diet

The diet for diabetes is pretty much the same as recommended for the general population. This is a healthy diet that is low in fat, modest in salt and sugar with plenty of wholegrains, vegetables and fruit. People with diabetes don’t need to avoid sugar altogether, in fact, according to latest UK guidelines, it’s not the type of carbohydrate that makes the biggest impact on blood sugars, it’s the amount. People with diabetes can include modest amounts of sugar in their diets. Everyone, however, should be sensible about their sugar intake for oral health and weight reasons. Its important to remember that weight loss is the priority for managing type 2 diabetes as it has a big impact on blood sugar levels/glycaemic control; so if weight loss is needed, sugar should be reduced in order to reduce calories.

  • You have to eat a lot of starchy carbohydrates and snack between meals

In the past, we used to recommend “plenty” of starchy carbohydrates and snacks between meals for the management if Type 2 diabetes. With the emphasis even more on weight management now, the focus is on portion control. The main thing is to ensure regularity of meal patterns, not frequency, and people with diabetes don’t need to load up on carbohydrates at each meal. A modest amount of low GI carbohydrate at each meal should suffice. The current evidence for frequent snacking to assist weight loss isn’t strong so unless people with Type 2 Diabetes are at risk of hypoglycaemia due to certain medications or insulin management, snacks aren’t necessary.

  • You can’t eat certain types of fruit

Poor old grapes, melon, bananas and pineapple really took a bad rap with Diabetes somewhere in the past. Some fruit, like pineapple and melon, do have a higher GI but can still be enjoyed in moderation and included as part of a healthy diet. Grapes, in fact, have a reasonably low GI so they won’t raise blood sugars rapidly. Once again, it’s about amount.

  • You need to eat special diabetic food

Many times over the years, I’ve had people ask me what kind of special “diabetic” food they should get for loved ones and relatives for special occasions and gifts. I’ve even had one client ask for a prescription for “special diabetic food”. In fact, people with Diabetes don’t need any “special” diabetic food. They can enjoy the everyday foods that we all enjoy in moderation. Buying “diabetic” products is unnecessary and usually expensive. In fact, quite often these products can be higher in fat and calories and are no better for Diabetes than regular products

These are just a few of the myths we are facing when it comes to dietary control of Diabetes. If you are not sure, please do ask a Dietitian. After all…”you can trust a dietitian to know about, in this case, …Diabetes”

References

Diabetes UK Nutrition Working Group(2011) Evidence-based nutrition guidelines for the prevention and management of diabetes .
Palmer, M., Capra, S,. Baines, S. To Snack or Not to Snack: What should we advise for weight management? Nutrition & Dietetics. Volume 68, Issue 1, pages 60–64, March 2011

What myths about Diet and Diabetes have you heard? Have you any questions about Diet and Diabetes? Please let me know.

Tags: Carbohydrates, Diabetes, Myths, Sugar

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.

Comment

  1. Great article, I know a few people who stringently avoid grapes and bananas, it’s a very interesting read.

  2. Very clear and simply put! I will be using some of these myths to talk about tomorrow on my health promotion event. I’ll be wearing the World Diabetes Day t-shirts along with many others from the dietetic department.

  3. Thanks Heather and Nichola!

    Id love a World Diabetes Day T shirt!

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