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Diabetics Get Sweet Bit of News

January 07, 2002|Jane E. Allen

Take heart, diabetics. Sugary sweets are no longer Public Enemy No. 1. In fact, you can occasionally indulge a craving for a candy bar or other formerly forbidden treat, as long as you watch your overall intake of carbohydrates, according to revised nutritional guidelines from the American Diabetes Assn.

The guidelines put new emphasis on managing the disease through diet and exercise. They reflect research showing that regular exercise helps people with diabetes lower their blood sugar--and can help prevent it in those at risk of acquiring Type 2 diabetes through genes or obesity.

The decision to allow occasional sugar reflects a recognition that sugary foods may not boost blood sugar more than other carbohydrates that the body breaks down into sugar. But, if you choose to eat them, you must factor them into your carbohydrate intake for the day, and take enough insulin or other diabetes medication to keep your sugar levels from surging.

The new guidelines, meant to help the country's 16 million diabetics, recommend against planning meals based upon the glycemic index, which places a numeric value on foods based upon how much they will raise blood sugar.

Instead, the new approach looks to the total carbohydrates in snacks and meals, rather than their particular source.

The guidelines, which reflect scientific evidence accumulated since they were last updated in 1994, appear in the January issue of the association's monthly research journal, Diabetes Care.

The revisions give more weight to prevention. And they discourage fad diets, such as high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate plans, which may produce weight loss in the short term, but haven't been shown to produce lasting weight control--a critical goal in diabetes control.

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Jane E. Allen

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