Naturally, food is one of the biggest challenges connected to living with diabetes, and differing opinions on how to handle it can even divide our community at times.
Today, Oct. 16, actually marks World Food Day, calling public attention to various diet trends and personal meal management, along with the types and availability of healthy food in various regions across the country and world.
For those of us living with diabetes who do not suffer from shortages, opinions can vary sharply on what is the "responsible" way to eat with diabetes. Here at the 'Mine we’ve often explored the Great Carb Debate and recently published extensive recommendations on healthy breakfasts for those with type 1 diabetes.
There's no shortage of controversy over food and diabetes. Here's what's top of mind on this 2019 World Food Day:
Should you eat red meat?
That's the big question these days.
Remember back in early '80s when medical folk started stepping up their warnings about eating so much red meat because it was bad for our health? They’ve apparently now changed their tune... at least to the extent of admitting that they don't know what to recommend when it comes to red meat.
Yep, in what the New York Times called "a remarkable turnabout," an international collaboration of researchers "produced a series of analyses concluding that the advice, a bedrock of almost all dietary guidelines, is not backed by good scientific evidence."
On Oct. 1, the Annals of Internal Medicine published these researchers' updated clinical guidelines regarding red meat and processed meat consumption. The authors found no health benefits tied to reducing processed or unprocessed red meat a huge contradiction to most study recommendations and national dietary guidelines published in the past several decades.
Basically, the researchers are debunking past assertions that everyone, including people with diabetes, should limit our intake of beef and pork because their high fat content is bad for heart health, and these foodstuffs are linked to cancer and other medical conditions. Now, the consensus is that we may not have enough valid research to say yay or nay on any of that.
Oh boy. Raise the red (meat) flags.
The authors do acknowledge stufy findings that show reducing unprocessed red meat consumption by 3 servings per week was associated with an approximately 8% lower lifetime risk of heart disease, cancer and early death. However, they assert that the quality of those past studies was poor, and that the measly 8% reduction in risk is so small that it can't be used to justify a blanket recommendation for everyone to eat less red meat.
Of course, this has sent the nutrition and public health sectors into an uproar and leading food experts say it's "highly irresponsible" and a danger to public health.
For its part, the American Diabetes Association has long backed guidance about reducing red meat and recommended more emphasis on consuming plant-based proteins.
The low-carb and Keto diet community (where meat is a mainstay) may be particularly jolted by this latest development, although their biggest declared food enemy is clearly carbohydrates.
Let's skip the carb shaming
Along with the meat debate, the perennial tossup over whether "Carbs Are Evil" rages on. It most recently bubbled up again in the Diabetes Online Community when T1D advocate Melissa Lee posted a light-hearted music video titled "You Need Some Carbs Now" spoofing Taylor Swift's latest hit, "You Need to Calm Down."
Melissa says she had been witnessing food-shaming by some folks who embrace low-carb lifestyles, and wanted to make a point with the video. The lyrics make fun of those who are overly zealous about low-carb eating, to the point of scolding others for their choices:
Near 2,500 views and 60 comments later, the debate rages on.
Whether you find the parody funny or not, Melissa's point is well-taken: just as we all seem to agree that Your Diabetes May Vary, each person's preferences around how many carbs are right for them as an individual is, well... their individual choice to make.
And calling people out on social media isn't going to change anything. It's just like that seminal line in the original Taylor Swift tune that states: "Shade never made anybody less gay."
Obviously, for those of us living on insulin who don't ban carbs altogether, the biggest challenge is discipline. Our friend Adam Brown at diaTribe writes in his book Diabetes Bright Spots & Landmines that it's all about recognizing when you are truly hungry or not, and making sure that you're eating responsibly, to avoid impacting your glucose levels unnecessarily. That can mean anything from working to snack on raw nuts or seeds instead of chips or pretzels, to doing your best to not eat after 8 or 9 pm at night (unless experiencing a glucose low).
But let's not forget that all of this back-and-forth over how many carbs are acceptable is a classic #FirstWorldProblem; for many people across the globe, the core issue is just accessing enough healthy food to stay alive and well.
Goals: #ZeroHunger and healthy food options
One big theme of this year's #WorldFoodDay is Zero Hunger. That's because access to healthy and affordable food options is one of the biggest challenges facing food-insecure people all over the world, including here in the United States. See this landing page from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to learn about specific actions that can be taken by decision makers and private businesses to help in this effort.
In the US, specific to the diabetes world, the Novo Nordisk sponsored program called Cities Changing Diabetes comes to mind. Kicked off in Houston, TX, in 2014, the program is designed to "address the social and cultural factors that can increase type 2 diabetes vulnerability among certain people living in urban environments." Now with established local partnerships in 22 cities, one of the key aspects is improving healthy food access. They're working to set up sustainable food systems that support a wide distribution of fresh and healthy foods at affordable prices in many places that were previously dubbed "food deserts."
Meanwhile, as we head into 2020, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is getting ready to release its big update on nutrition guidelines, and some in the D-Community are wondering if they'll make any movement on the number of carbs recommended for daily consumption. Got an opinion to share? The USDA is asking for citizens to make their voice heard! You can start by registering for their next public Webcast happening Oct. 24-25, 2019.