Living with diabetes: How does it change a household?


Millions of people worldwide have diabetes, and this number is growing year-on-year in many countries. Living with diabetes doesn’t just bring enormous change for those with the condition; it’s often a big adjustment for the whole household. Here, we speak to two colleagues about necessary dietary changes to manage this life-altering disease, while ensuring people with diabetes can participate in those special moments that revolve around food and celebration.

“When my son was rushed to hospital at 15, we learned about this auto-immune disease he would have for life, which, if not properly managed, could cause huge internal damage,” explained Mary Hunt, Tate & Lyle’s Senior Account Manager for Confectionery. “It flipped our world.”

Mary began her 16-year career with Tate & Lyle in customer services before moving into product management for our low-calorie sweetener SPLENDA® Sucralose. Today, she supports the world’s most successful confectioners with healthier formulation in a senior sales role for North America.

Selfie of Mary Hunt and her son Brayden

“I used to talk to customers about the benefits of our ingredients, but now I’m on the other side seeing the real-life benefits for myself. I can be staring at the blood sugar tracker on my phone as my son tries no added sugar chocolates or reduced sugar candies that our scientists are helping to develop, seeing him enjoying the new and novel tastes without the blood sugar spikes. It makes me really proud of what we’re doing as a company,” Mary continued.

For most households, a diabetes diagnosis means a major shake-up of meal planning and shopping to make it easier for family members to adjust to a more restrictive diet.

“Since his type 1 diabetes diagnosis, I’ve shopped for food and drink with less sugar and fewer calories, as well as high protein and high fibre products that I know my whole family will enjoy without having to worry how my son’s blood sugar levels will respond,” Mary explained. “In our house, we love anything with SPLENDA® and allulose, particularly cereal, which he adores, plus sauces, drinks and ice-creams, because it tastes good and gives that indulgent-like experience we all enjoy without the risks of full sugar or high calorie products.”

Diabetes is a long-term condition, but when properly managed people with it can live healthy and fulfilling lives. The information and resources to help people to adapt and thrive have never been more widespread, nor the range of diabetes diet-friendly foods and drinks broader.

“My son has already had to embrace huge change, even rethinking his career goals, because of this condition, though he’s now working towards a career where he can help improve healthcare provision, and that’s a positive. As his mom, I want to help him live a healthy, long and ‘normal’ life, avoiding limitations where we can. Along with the meals we prep ourselves, healthier and clearly labelled convenience foods really help with that. Our lives would be a lot harder and more restricted without them,” Mary concluded.

At Tate & Lyle, our global nutrition team has extensive experience of supporting diabetes education efforts, both through the research we conduct as well as our work with health professionals.

“Ideally, when someone is diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, they should receive counselling from a qualified dietitian or certified diabetes educator to plan their diet to manage calorie and carbohydrate intake, alongside medical interventions,” explained Thomas Teh, Tate & Lyle Nutrition Scientist, APAC. “Unlike for special diets such as gluten or dairy-free, there isn’t generally a distinct section of the supermarket aimed at people with diabetes. They can eat ‘regular’ food but must pay very close attention to the amount of calories and carbohydrates they consume per meal and per day, along with the glycaemic index (GI) of the products,” he continues.

Blood glucose diabetes test

Foods and drinks may be categorised as low, moderate or high glycaemic index (GI), with a higher GI value causing a faster rise in blood sugar levels. Part of managing diabetes through diet is about learning to recognise which foods predominantly contain carbohydrates and fall into which GI categories. White rice, for instance, is a high GI food whereas brown rice has a lower GI value as some of its fibre may slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, which is why people with diabetes are recommended to have fibre-rich foods.

“The low and no calorie sweeteners and fibres we produce at Tate & Lyle support healthier overall diets and can be beneficial to people living with diabetes,” Thomas explained. “They can lower calories in products, which can help people reduce their daily energy intake and achieve a healthier weight level, and therefore, indirectly lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It can also help with blood glucose control as they do not raise blood glucose upon ingestion, while still providing the sweetness that one is looking for.”

At Tate & Lyle, we understand that food and drink with functional ingredients that improve the nutritional content of products, while delivering great taste and exciting eating experiences, are a useful tool or people livings with diabetes, alongside other health conditions and special diets. With our low and no calorie sweeteners SPLENDA® Sucralose, DOLCIA® Prima Allulose, and monk fruit and stevia portfolios, along with our fibre solutions, we help customers to create great tasting foods and drinks that enable people living with diabetes to join in and enjoy the sweet things in life.

“There is a huge range of healthier food and drink to support people living with diabetes to make informed choices and manage their condition. We are not lacking in choice these days compared with what was available when I first started in nutrition 20 years ago!” Thomas concludes.

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