Diabetic food is fast becoming an obsolete term. Yet, this doesn't stop thousands of diabetics believing they have to buy this food and countless manufacturers selling diabetic food products.
The situation has reached the point at which Diabetes UK and the Food Standards Agency have issued a joint statement calling for an end to ‘diabetic food’ and ‘suitable for diabetics’ on food labels.
This shift in dietary policy is largely down to changing diet advice, which recommends that any food is suitable for people with diabetes in sensible moderation.
Concern has existed for some time that labelling a food as ‘diabetic’ could mislead people with diabetes into thinking that the food was essential or at the least especially suitable.
Often, diabetic foods are more expensive than standard products, with sugar-free and low-sugar versions also often misleading.
Often, ‘diabetic’ food labelling is applied to sweet food such as biscuits and chocolate.
According to the joint statement - people who eat sugary food should do so sparingly, and only as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Effectively, healthy eating advice provided by the authorities is the same for people with diabetes as it is for those without.
Essentially, specially designated ‘diabetic’ foods should now become a thing of the past.
I am diabetic, should I eat diabetic food?
No, people with diabetes don’t need to eat special diabetic food.
Health authorities and Diabetes UK advise a healthy, balanced diet with no need to seek out specially labelled food. Because a manufacturer labels a food as ‘suitable for diabetics’ doesn’t mean that other food is necessarily unsuitable for diabetics.
There are no regulations as to which foods can bear the term ‘diabetic’ which has led to the Food Standards Agency and diabetes charity, Diabetes UK, calling for an end to the use of the term.
Foods labelled as diabetic may have lower quantities of sugar than other available options. However, because there are no official regulations over usage of the term, foods bearing the label ‘diabetic’ may not have any advantages over alternative options.
Diabetes UK and the FSA argue that there is rarely any benefit in picking so called ‘diabetic foods’. Sweet products, such as marmalades, sweets and chocolate, listed as diabetic options, may use sugar alcohols instead of sweeteners.
Sugar alcohol sweeteners usually end in ‘ol’ and include sorbitol, maltitol and xylitol. Sugar alcohols are lower in carbohydrate than table sugar but may cause an upset stomach or have a laxative effect if taken in larger quantities.
Not all foods labelled diabetic contain sugar alcohols, but a lot of them do. Diabetes UK have taken a stand against diabetic food for a few different reasons:
- The term ‘diabetic’ on foods could mislead people into thinking that other options are less healthy or unsuitable for them
- Foods labelled ‘diabetic’ are often more expensive than other options –the charity feels this could trick people with diabetes into paying more for no benefit
- Items labelled as ‘diabetic’ tend to be less healthy options which could undermine efforts to promote healthy eating.
Why should I avoid diabetic food?
Firstly, ‘diabetic’ food is often much more expensive than other types of food.
Secondly, this type of food may offer no additional health benefits for the buyer. Because of this, it is recommended that diabetics don’t need to focus their food buying on diabetic food.
Will diabetic food hurt me?
Choosing diabetic food over healthy, natural products may damage your blood glucose control more than eating a balanced diet.
However, ‘diabetic’ foods of themselves may also synthetic sugars which can send blood glucose levels up. Remember, always read labels carefully and don’t be drawn in by a food which is ‘suitable for diabetics.’
What the community have to say about diabetic food
- K9kitty: I think diabetic foods are still sold from the old days when it was thought diabetics need to avoid sugar at all costs, hence, finding something sweet with an alternative sweetener in and there is still a market for them or they wouldn't be stocked.
- Angeldust: It's a total sham. I avoid synthetic sugars like the plague. They do a million times more harm than real sugar in moderation. The food industry produces them for next to nothing and the profit margin is huge.
- Noblehead: Diabetic Food-Why is it sold? Good question, totally unnecessary and a complete waste of money!
- Witan: It really is time that the 'Diabetic food' description had some regulatory control or was banned completely. It is open to every manufacturers own interpretation and as has already been said is often not just useless but misleading and bordering on harmful.
- B@rnstormer: I've eaten Thorntons diabetic milk chocolate bar, diabetic Turkish delight bars, diabetic fudge bars and assorted diabetic individual chocolates and I have never had any stomach upsets after doing so. It obviously affects some people more than others; it seems a bit unfair to say everyone should steer clear of them.