January 6, 2017
Meal Planning, Food and Diet
Question from The Netherlands:
My boyfriend’s son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes about three months ago. I always do my best to give him healthy food and try to avoid sugary drinks as much as possible. My boyfriend, however, thinks a little differently about it and says that, for example, Coca Cola doesn’t harm his son’s health that much. He believes that because Coca Cola makes your blood sugar rise quickly, it also disappears quickly from your body. I don’t agree with that statement. I’ve been trying to find the explanation of what really happens with the blood sugar after drinking a regular Coca Cola and what the consequences are of drinking it, but I can’t find anything that goes deeper than it makes your blood sugar rise fast and that’s bad for you weight. Does is make a difference if you mix a sugar soft drink with a healthy food? Can you explain it in details and be specific as much as possible?
It is important for everyone to eat healthy foods and to enjoy their food. For a person with type 1 diabetes, balancing nutritious foods and glucose control is an art and a science. Take time to learn about how different foods affect glucose and make an informed decision. For example, carbohydrates have the biggest effect on glucose levels for people with type 1 diabetes. Tools such as blood glucose monitoring and continuous glucose monitoring will help you understand the affect of the foods eaten on glucose levels. (Know that in the first months of diabetes, he may still be making some insulin, which would affect the impact of foods on glucose).
In my experience, most people with type 1 diabetes typically decide to limit their regular soda to periods of hypoglycemia or to prevent hypoglycemia related to exercise, as regular soda may cause a significant rise in glucose. In general, I would consider regular soda in the candy and other treats section. If it is an “important” treat for your boyfriend’s son, learn how to incorporate some regular soda into the diet, adjusting insulin and timing of soda intake (before exercise, for example). If it is not important, I would not serve it to him routinely.
In response to your other questions, including the part of the question about about the soda causing the rising and disappearing quickly: An important goal of diabetes care is to minimize the glucose changes (when possible). Regular soda would make this harder, which is why it is best to plan it in. The insulin we inject subcutaneously does not work fast enough, and typically lasts longer than the rise and fall of glucose change from drinking soda by itself. Ingested sugar as part of a large meal with fat and protein may blunt the glucose rise that you may see.
From a general nutritional perspective (not looking at type 1 diabetes per se), there are concerns about the amount of soda we drink (and diet soda as well). Regular soda does not contain the important nutrients we need, and, instead, contains calories contributing to weight gain and is possibly associated with insulin resistance and development of prediabetes (a risk factor for type 2 diabetes). There have been some studies associating diet soda as well with insulin resistance, however causality has not been shown. Please read Regular intake of sugary beverages, but not diet soda, is associated with prediabetes
In summary, look at the big picture, learn as much as you can about diabetes care, try to eat healthy and enjoy eating, include some treats, and provide support to help your boyfriend’s son on his journey with Type 1 diabetes.