New Dietary Guidelines for Diabetes Allow Sweets
The American Diabetes Association, hoping to improve the prevention and treatment of diabetes, has issued new dietary guidelines that allow individuals with the disease to consume sweets "occasionally," the New York Times reports. Although "there is still a widespread belief" that individuals with diabetes should never consume "sugar-laden" foods, the new guidelines say that diabetes patients can consume sweets "as long as the total intake of starches and sugars is kept in balance" with insulin or other medications and exercise. In addition, sweets should not exceed "caloric needs." The new guidelines, which appear in the January issue of Diabetes Care, "disregard" a food's "glycemic index," or the measure of the elevation of blood sugar when an individual consumes a food that contains carbohydrates. According to the new guidelines, studies have found "no significant differences" in blood sugar response to "sugary or starchy" foods "as long as the total amount of carbohydrates was similar." However, the new guidelines "cautioned" that several factors, such as the type of sugar or starch contained in a food and food preparation, could "influence" the effect of foods on blood sugar levels.
The new guidelines also allow the use of non-nutritive sweeteners -- saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose -- but warn that fructose may raise fat levels in the blood. The new guidelines "emphasiz[e]" that "there is no one diet" for diabetes patients and say that individuals should customize their diets with the help of a dietitian to account for tastes. Diets also should account for medical requirements, such as the "need to lose weight or lower blood cholesterol." Dr. Nathaniel Clark, director of the ADA, said, "We are continuing to try to lessen the burden for patients with diabetes." He added, "A lot of people have misconceptions about diabetes and dieting. Some people think sugar is the worst thing for diabetics and that leads to a lot of problems such as diets that are extremely high in fat or protein" (Brody, New York Times, 12/27).