Adolescents with type 1 diabetes who have limited access to nutritional and healthy foods are more likely to have poor blood sugar control, according to US research.

Those with Food Insecurity (FI), classified as a limited availability of nutritionally adequate foods, were also more likely to have higher HbA1c levels and more frequent diabetes-related hospital visits.

Poor diet and lifestyle has long been associated with poor blood sugar control among children with type 2 diabetes, so scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle wanted to explore whether FI had a similar association with type 1 diabetic adolescents.

The researchers analysed data from 226 teenagers with type 1 diabetes, of whom the mean age was 15 years and average duration of type 1 diabetes was 7.5 years.

FI was assessed using the Household Food Security Survey Module, which determines the conditions and behaviours typical of households and whether they are able to meet basic food needs for their children.

Overall, the prevalence of FI among the adolescents was 19%, higher than the US national prevalence of 12.7%. A total of 7.1% of participants were found to have very low food security.

Compared with children from food-secure households, those with FI were 2.64 times more likely to suffer from poor blood sugar control and nearly three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital emergency department.

“Targeted efforts should be developed and tested to alleviate FI among [adolescents] with type 1 diabetes,” said the researchers.

The findings appear online in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice.

Editor’s note: It is imperative that children with diabetes and their families and carers take steps to ensure the child’s blood glucose levels are well controlled. In most cases, this will mean ensuring they eat healthy foods and reducing their intake of sugar, starchy carbohydrates and processed foods. For more information, visit our Low Carb Program.

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