Irish diabetic charity concerned about growth in diabetic foods

by Mark Benson on September 6, 2012

Irish diabetic charity concerned about growth in diabetic foods

It is highly likely that your local supermarket will stock a number of products which are deemed to be “diabetic foods” as the condition becomes more commonplace across the country. While there is no doubt that some diabetic foods are specifically manufactured to assist with maintaining a healthy blood sugar level do we really know what we are buying? Are diabetic foods on the whole as healthy as “normal” foods?

Consumer demand

The reality today is that supermarkets are perhaps the central focal point of our shopping adventures and as a consequence they are very often the first retail outlets to react to changing consumer demands and requirements. Therefore it is fairly predictable to see that many supermarkets, not only in Ireland but also across the UK, are now stocking an array of diabetic foods which are specifically manufactured for those looking for a certain type of diet.

One of the major concerns which some diabetic charities have at the moment is the fact that very often these foods are more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Is there really a major difference in the manufacturing process and manufacturing cost? Are retailers taking advantage of those suffering from diabetes?


There is no doubt that many supermarkets and other retail outlets have put aside a significant amount of marketing firepower for new areas such as diabetic foods, etc. On the whole supermarkets and other retail outlets are there to give a service to those who require specific products but perhaps we need to see the overall picture as opposed to the headline grabbing “diabetic food” labels which are very commonplace today.

There is some concern, and further tests will be required to confirm these, that some diabetic foods may not be as healthy overall as their “normal” diabetic counterparts. So while millions of pounds is used to focus upon the fact that diabetic foods offer reduced sugar levels and indeed are sometimes sugar free, perhaps we now need to see the overall picture?

The make-up of diabetic food

It is very dangerous and potentially misleading to focus wholly upon the terms sugar free and diabetic food while ignoring the overall make-up of the food. Diabetes Ireland suggest that some of the diabetic foods available today are quite high in saturated fat, carbohydrate and energy which may actually reduce the impact of the “sugar free” element for diabetics. Despite the fact that diabetics have a specific requirement for their overall diet this does not mean to say that every item of food should be sugar free or indeed whether there is a real need for specific diabetic foods to take up a large percentage of their overall diet.

Many experts believe that some diabetics, who are perhaps afraid to ask questions of their doctors, etc, automatically assume that diabetic food is an area in which they should concentrate their diet and their retail shopping. The fact is that even if you are diabetic you do not need to avoid your favourite foods or indeed even foods which are sweetened with sugar. You may well need to reduce your intake because moderation is most certainly the key to a diabetic diet going forward.

Healthy diet and exercise

If we take a step back from the diabetic food debate the reality is that whether you have diabetes or not we all need to consider a healthy diet and healthy exercise regime. We all need to take a balanced approach to our overall health and this includes the type of food we and the amount of food we eat. Doctors are armed with piles of information which will detail exactly what changes a diabetic should make to their diets and the chances are that the changes you expect will be far greater than the actual changes required to keep the condition under control.

The fact is that by taking a balanced approach to your diet and your health regime you will be able to allow yourself treats and you will be able to vary your intake of specific ingredients and specific food types. True, you will still need to monitor your blood sugar levels on an ongoing basis, as you would do, but very quickly you will soon realise what foods are good for you and your condition and what foods are not so helpful.

Is the diabetic diet very different from the traditional diet?

The traditional diet today for non-diabetics is very different to that of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, etc and in many ways we are not comparing the historic traditional diet with the diabetic diet. Governments advise each and every one of us, whether suffering from the condition or not, to consider a diet which is low in saturated fat, low in sugar and low in salt with healthy portions of fruit and vegetables on a daily basis.

For many was the fast-food diet which is more prevalent today than ever before is unhealthy even if we do not suffer from diabetes or any similar condition. It is very easy to pick up ready-made meals to save time but the reality is that too much of any specific food type will have an impact on your health at some stage. You need to vary what you eat and the now infamous phrase “five a day” is something which is very relevant even today.

Taking advice

While the obvious initial shock when being diagnosed with diabetes is not something that anybody can understand unless they have been through it, there is more advice and assistance available today than ever before. Doctors, nurses, websites and other readily available resources are very close at hand and able to offer specific advice on specific concerns. There may be some benefit from acquiring diabetic-based foods on a regular basis but there is no need to solely base your diet around these food types.

If the diabetic charities have their way then the food labelling of diabetic foods will be very different in the future although at the moment you may need to read the small print to form an opinion about the overall health of the product. Swapping advice and experiences with fellow diabetics is also a very useful path which you can go down and there are many active forums on the Internet today.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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