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Defeat Diabetes
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Young Diabetics Not Meeting Diet Recommendations

Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Many adolescents and young adults with diabetes have diets that fall far short of what's recommended to help manage their disease, according to a new study.

While their eating habits reflect what's typical of Americans in general - high in saturated fats and low in fruits, vegetables and fiber -- these nutritional shortcomings are particularly troubling in young diabetics, researchers say.

Diabetics should eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and keep saturated fats below 10 percent of their daily calories. The goal is to help control blood sugar levels in the short term so the risk of complications like heart disease and stroke, which is already higher in diabetics, is reduced in the long term.

Dr. Elizabeth J. Mayer-Davis, a diabetes researcher at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, the study's lead author states that, "It is extremely important that dietary habits in youths with diabetes promote long-term health." Mayer-Davis.

Of the nearly 1,700 diabetics between 10 to 22 years old in the study, only 6.5 percent limited saturated fat to recommended levels, while less than 20 percent met recommendations for fruits and vegetables. Diets were also low in vitamin E and fiber, and none of subjects ate enough whole grains, according to the report, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Most of the subjects had type 1 diabetes, caused by an abnormal immune system that attacks pancreatic cells, which produce the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin.

Eleven percent had type 2 diabetes, which is related to obesity. Yet these kids often had poorer nutrition than their peers with type 1 diabetes -- consuming less calcium, magnesium and vitamin E, and twice as much sugary soda.

Although the study did not look at the reasons for the poor diets, it's possible that families would benefit from nutritional counseling, Mayer-Davis said. She recommends parents help their diabetic children choose heart-healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains and low-fat dairy foods.

Source: Diabetes In Control: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, May 2006

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