Beating Diabetes – Who to trust and when to ask questions
We are not going to sugarcoat it (pardon the pun!) – diabetes management is complex.
Recently, a popular media outlet showcased an example of one nutrition strategy which might be useful for some people who have Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
While it was great to see a major public health issue in the spotlight—and we welcome discussion on the topic—we feel that there are a few parts to the story that need to be highlighted for a more balanced perspective.
Most worrying for us is when we hear statements about nutritious foods being taken completely out of context – like milky coffee containing five teaspoons of sugar or brown bread just being ‘white bread that has been dyed’.
Milky coffee does contain a sugar called lactose but this is a naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products and not an added sugar, so it is not dangerous for health when eaten in whole dairy foods. As for white bread being dyed brown… we’re not sure where that idea came from but wholemeal (brown) bread is a type of bread made using flour that is partly or entirely milled from wholegrains – no dye is used in the process.
Here are a few other thoughts that you might like to keep in mind to be sure that you’re getting the facts, rather than just a good story.
Emotive language is intended to be persuasive
Media reports of hot topics, particularly nutrition hot topics, often use language in their reporting that deliberately elicits an emotional response – be that fear, hope, anger, joy, etc. Typically, scientific writing avoids the use of emotive language and instead, states the facts as they are – even though this can seem ‘boring’.
On the other hand, the tactical use of emotive language can turn a fact such as ‘in some cases, low fat dairy products may have a higher relative proportion of sugar compared to full fat dairy products and this should be considered when making individual nutrition choices’ into a much more emotive statement like ‘low fat dairy products are full of sugar and should be considered junk’.
When watching or reading a media piece, watch out for this language and be mindful of the emotion that it is intending to elicit – does it stack up to the facts?
There is more than one ‘best strategy’ when it comes to nutrition
One plan that may seem easy and effortless for one person, may be incredibly restrictive and difficult for another to follow. It’s also important to recognise that food is eaten for far more reasons than just nutrients and the social aspects of eating (sharing an evening meal with family, catching up with friends for coffee, enjoying a piece of cake on a birthday) as well as the financial implications cannot be overlooked.
When it comes to weight management, no single nutrition plan or diet is better than another – the best plan for an individual is the one that they can stick to for the long term and fits within their social and financial choices. For some, this may be a low carb diet, for others it may be an intermittent fasting style diet and for others a mindful eating approach is the best option.
There is no one magic answer and an AccSD should be part of your team to help guide you through the plethora of options to find the best solution for YOU. In addition, if you’re active or training for an event then the wrong weight management strategy can actually impair your performance, rather than help it. For more information on this, read our Weight Loss and Athletes factsheet.
Not everyone is an expert
It’s fantastic when individuals have great results when following a particular nutrition plan. But, each individual is different and just because one person had great results, doesn’t mean everyone else will experience the same outcomes.
Rather than rely on anecdotes or testimonials, AccSDs look to the literature for well-researched information before determining the potential benefits (and potential downsides) of any nutrition plan. Be wary of articles where the nutrition ‘experts’ are not AccSDs or APDs.
So where to from here?
- Diabetes management is complex. Read and watch with a questioning mind and look for the opinions of experts in nutrition, AccSDs and APDs.
- Team up with an expert – an AccSD should be part of any team that is helping you manage your health. To find one near you, use the Find A Sports Dietitian feature.
- If you would like to read more about being active with diabetes, check out our Diabetes and Exercise factsheet.
- The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) has an informative factsheet on low carb diets and diabetes – a great read if you’re keen to learn more.