Diabetes Ireland is calling for food manufacturers to end using the term ‘diabetic’ or ‘suitable for diabetics’ on food products.
“Labelling foods as being suitable for people with diabetes undermines important messages about healthy eating”, says Dr. Anna Clarke from Diabetes Ireland.
Significant marketing resources has been directed by producers of ‘no added sugar’, ‘sugar free’ and ‘diabetic’ foods at people with diabetes, who have to monitor their blood sugar levels, carbohydrate and fat intake to manage their condition.
Diabetes Ireland says that there has been an influx of ‘diabetic’ and ‘sugar free’ versions of common products into the market in recent years. Products like chewing gum, sweets, chocolates, biscuits, syrups, jams and a wide range of drinks have become more common in the supermarkets, grocery shops and are available to order on-line in Ireland.
“In reality ’no added sugar’ does not mean that there are no sugars in the food or drink you’re consuming”, says Dr. Clarke, “likewise the label ‘suitable for diabetics’ does not actually mean actually that a product is suitable for people with the condition.
“If a manufacturer labels a product ‘suitable for diabetics’ the claim may give rise to the idea that people with diabetes should follow a special diet that is different to everyone else. Someone with diabetes might even get the impression that a ‘diabetic’ food product is beneficial or even essential as part of their diet. This is not that the case and we feel that consumers may be misled”, she says.
Diabetes Ireland, she says, does not support claims that ‘diabetic’ foods are healthier for people with diabetes, than healthy portions of regular foods. The concept of a strict sugar-free diet for some with diabetes is actually obsolete. These days guidelines on healthy food choices and individualized advice on eating habits for each person with diabetes are used to manage the condition.
The charity says that everybody should be encouraged to eat a healthy balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. Many ‘diabetic foods’ are quite high in saturated fat, carbohydrates and energy. Their use may actually prevent people from eating a healthy, low saturated fat diet. In fact, regular consumption of such foods may actually lead to weight gain. Moreover ‘diabetic’ food products tend to be more expensive than regular comparable products.
“We recommend that people should have a small amount of the actual sugar sweetened, good quality food that they enjoy. Allowing yourself a reasonable weekly treat or a snack is a more realistic and balanced approach”, says Dr. Clarke.
Like the rest of the population, people with diabetes are encouraged to eat a diet low in saturated fat, sugar and salt, with plenty of fruit and vegetables and meals based on starchy carbohydrate foods like bread and potatoes.
5th Sept 2012