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Oct 21, 2013

American Diabetes Association Revises Nutritional Guidelines

New guidelines conclude there is no “one size fits all” eating plan for the management of diabetes.

When it comes to managing diabetes, there is no single eating plan that works best, according to a position statement published Oct. 9 in Diabetes Care. Instead, patients living with diabetes should work closely with their healthcare providers to create a nutrition plan that works for them, taking into account individuals preferences, culture, and personal health goals.

This position statement replaced nutritional guidelines published in 2008 and provides a new set of recommendations based on the latest research. These guidelines are designed to help patients living with type 1 or 2 diabetes achieve healthy eating patterns to help manage their condition and reduce risk of complications.

Most importantly, authors note that all adults living with diabetes should incorporate an eating plan into their diabetes treatment plan, but there’s no “one size fits all” approach. Research doesn’t strongly support a single eating plan, like the Mediterraneanvegetarian or low-carb diet, over another. The most important thing is to find an eating plan that fits one’s lifestyle and can be consistently followed to promote better health.

Similarly, adults living with diabetes don’t need to choose one type of nutrient such as carbohydrates, protein or fat, over another. It’s more important to choose foods that are rich in nutrients (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and dairy products), contain good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) vs. bad fats (trans fats and saturated fats), and have minimally added fats, sugar or sodium.

The new recommendations also urge adults with diabetes to limit or avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, reduce sodium intake to at least 2,300mg/day (or more for those with high blood pressure), and try to get their vitamins and minerals from foods instead of supplements. For example, omega-3 supplements have not been proven to prevent heart disease in patients with diabetes, but guidelines recommend eating at least two servings of fatty fish a week to get these heart-healthy fatty acids.

Ultimately, the goal of the American Diabetes Association’s revised nutritional guidelines is to help patients with diabetes manage their condition through healthy eating. Authors suggest that every individual with diabetes should be referred to a registered dietician or participate in a diabetes self-management education program to establish an individualized eating plan that works for them. Through education and support, patients are better able to achieve a healthy diet and prevent serious complications from diabetes.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is diabetes?
  • Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that cause high blood sugar, either because the body can’t produce enough insulin or the body doesn’t respond to insulin properly (or both). There are three main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes (occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin), type 2 diabetes (occurs when the body doesn’t use or make insulin the way it should) and gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy). Also, prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.
  • How can I prevent diabetes?
  • You can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes through healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating healthy and staying physically active. Achieving a healthy weight and managing cholesterol and blood pressure levels can also help reduce risk for diabetes and heart disease.

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