Defined as “a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly”, word “diabetes” derives from the Greek for “siphon”, a reference to the copious urine excretion that characterizes this affliction. In common usage, the term diabetes is synonymous with diabetes mellitus. As it is another major non-communicable disease that has affected millions of people around the world, this disease has two varieties, each with its own cause: diabetes mellitus type I, caused by deficiency of the pancreatic hormone insulin and diabetes mellitus type II, in which insulin is available but cannot be properly utilised. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation (FAO/WHO, 2003), the incidence of diabetes is “currently estimated to be around 150 million”. They even predict this number “to double by 2025, with the greatest number of cases being expected in China and India”. In the UK, 1.4 million people were inflicted with diabetes in 2002 and a million more people “have the condition but are not yet aware of it” (Food Standards Agency, 2002).
The American Diabetes Association (2008) explained that “medical nutrition therapy (MNT) is important in preventing diabetes, managing existing diabetes, and preventing, or at least slowing, the rate of development of diabetes complications”. To prevent the onset of Type II diabetes, emphasis on “lifestyle changes that include moderate weight loss (7% body weight) and regular physical activity (150 min/week), with dietary strategies including reduced calories and reduced intake of dietary fat, can reduce the risk for developing diabetes”. Also, the “U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendation for dietary fibre (14 g fiber/1,000 kcal) and foods containing whole grains (one-half of grain intake)”. For Type I diabetics, the traditional diet is high in protein and quite restricted in carbohydrates, with only about 45% of the total daily caloric intake being carbohydrate-derived. Since most type I diabetics are thin, weight reduction is not part of their program. For secondary prevention, the American Diabetes Association (2008) suggested limiting intake of “saturated fat to less than 7% of total calories”, intake of trans fat should be minimized. For individuals with diabetes, dietary cholesterol must also be lowered to less than 200 mg/day, whilst “two or more servings of fish per week (with the exception of commercially fried fish filets) provide n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and are recommended”.
In the UK, diet for managing diabetes include limiting protein intake to no more than 1 gram per kilogram body weight, total fat not exceeding 35% of daily energy intake, trans fat not exceeding 10% of daily energy intake, sucrose should not exceed 10% of daily energy intake and salt should be limited to less than 6 grams per day (Diabetes UK, 2003). However, Diabetes UK (2003) has no specific fibre requirements and they encourage “foods naturally rich in vitamins and antioxidants”. Diabetes UK (2003) announced that there is “liberalisation in the consumption of sucrose, from the previous 25 g/day up to 10% of the daily energy derived from carbohydrate, provided that this is eaten in the context of a healthy diet and distributed throughout the day”. But overweight people must “avoid sucrose where this is practicable”.
In this case, we can deem that the treatment of diabetes can lie mainly on managing the diet effectively. People with diabetes should strictly follow dietary recommendations for them to avoid the complications of this disease. Diabetes UK (2003) warned that there are “different approaches are required for different patients and in different circumstances”. If a patient wants to take control of his or her disease, they should consult a physician or a dietitian for them to have an effective diet plan. The Food Standards Agency also states that people with diabetes can eat anything and “there is no need to cut out all sugar”. However, “like everyone, people with diabetes should try to eat only small amounts of foods that are high in sugar or fat, or both”. Having a balanced diet is still the key, so eating minimal carbohydrates and sugar from low sugar biscuits or candies can still be helpful in the treatment of diabetes.
American Diabetes Association. 2008. Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 31:S61-S78. Retrieved 20 April 2008 at http://care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/full/31/Supplement_1/S61.
FAO/WHO. 2003. Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases, WHO Technical Report Series 916,
Food Standards Agency. 2002, July 19. Joint statement on diabetes issued. Retrieved 20 April 2008 at http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2002/jul/82463?view=printerfriendly.