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Nutrition: key to diabetes control

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Diabetes UK has recently published a new paper on nutritional guidelines for health-care professionals who advise people with diabetes (Diabetes UK, 2003).

Emma Bunn, BSc, SRD.

Diabetes Care Advisor, Diabetes UK, London

Significant changes from previous Diabetes UK (previously the British Diabetic Association) guidelines include an increase in the consumption of sucrose in line with guidance for the general population as appropriate for weight management, more active promotion of foods with a low glycaemic index, monounsaturated fats (MUFA) are promoted as the fat of choice and greater flexibility in the proportions of energy derived from carbohydrate and MUFAs.

The paper describes a range of approaches to nutritional management, such as the Balance of Good Health plate model and DAFNE (Dose Adjustment for Normal Eating) that can be used according to individual needs. There should be facilitation of appropriate behaviour changes in the context of food choices but also in wider lifestyle issues, such as physical activity.

Evidence supporting the need for nutritional guidelines comes from a report by Diabetes UK that shows an alarming lack of consistency in the advice being provided. The 2001 Listening Project interviewed over 5000 people about their experiences on being newly diagnosed with diabetes. One of the key issues raised was that there are still significant numbers of people emerging from the confirmation of diagnosis under-informed, unsupported and with little idea of any planned education or support. Many also had no idea of who to contact to access further information.

Calls to the Diabetes UK Careline show that many people get inadequate dietary advice at diagnosis and contact Diabetes UK for advice.

To support the publication of the nutritional guidelines, Diabetes UK has launched a new, easy-to-navigate ‘Eating Well’ section on the website providing helpful advice on food choices aimed at those living with diabetes. A nutrition tools pack is also being developed for use in primary care, where initial dietary information and support for the recently diagnosed is vital.

Copies are available to download from the Diabetes UK website at The consensus-based advice paper builds on work by the European Association for the Study of Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association.

Diabetes UK is the largest organisation in the UK working for people with diabetes, funding research, campaigning and helping people live with the condition. It is committed to providing education and support. To help do this it has a wide range of books, magazines, leaflets and information sheets available on all aspects of diabetes, aimed at those living with the condition, and at health-care professionals providing diabetes care. Trained counsellors on its Careline can provide information and support. Call 0845 120 2960 or email Diabetes UK also provides information in different languages, on tape, and the Careline has an interpreting service. The organisation’s website can be visited at:



Diabetes UK. (2003) The implementation of nutritional advice for people with diabetes. Diabetic Medicine 20: 786-807.


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